Demand Progress and Swartz Family Announce Boston Rally to Fix the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

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Activists seek to promote reforms to protect innovators and Internet.

Aaron’s Law is a great first step towards making sure the laws that govern the Internet reflect the ways it’s used now

Today, on the day that Aaron Swartz's trial was set to have begun its second week, Demand Progress and Aaron Swartz's partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman announced that they are holding a noontime rally in Boston to raise awareness about the problems of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) this Saturday, April 13th.

Swartz, who committed suicide on January 11, was being prosecuted for downloading too many academic articles from the journal cataloging site, JSTOR -- with the threat of decades in prison being held over his head.

“Aaron's friends and family, I, and the whole world lost a truly amazing person to this travesty. Aaron was a leader and an innovator,” said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Aaron’s partner. “Aaron had already done so much, and there’s no telling how much more he would have done. Instead, he was prosecuted ruthlessly under over vague and outdated statutes that allow prosecutors almost unlimited discretion to abuse their power.

"We would have been in the courtroom for the next two weeks, fighting unjust charges under an unjust law. As a country, we owe it to Aaron to make sure this can never happen again.”

The rally caps off a national week of action that both calls for the defeat of a proposal to expand and harshen the CFAA, under which Swartz was prosecuted and calls to reform the CFAA, to protect innovators and Internet users known as Aaron’s Law. Currently, this broad, vague law criminalizes even violations of websites' terms of service agreements.

The rally will be held at noon on April 13th at Dewey Square Park, and will feature speeches by Aaron’s partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal, noted author and professor Yochai Benkler, and civil rights advocate Harvey Silverglate. The rally will be followed by a march to Moakley Courthouse. Attendees may RSVP and find more details here:

“The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is older than what most of us think of as the internet,” said David Segal, Executive Director of Demand Progress. “It was written in 1984, before Netscape Navigator was invented, before most of us had personal computers, much less dial-up internet. It still governs what’s legal and what’s not online, and is so outdated and broad that it makes violating terms of service – those things you agree to but never read – federal felonies. We need to change that, and we need to do it before we have another case like this.”

Representative Zoe Lofgren (D – CA 19) has proposed revisions to the CFAA known as “Aaron’s Law”. In the last week, however, the House Judiciary Committee has floated revisions to the CFAA that would actually expand that law and harshen the severity of certain penalties created therein.

“Aaron’s Law is a great first step towards making sure the laws that govern the Internet reflect the ways it’s used now,” continued Segal. “Right now, however, there’s talk of increasing the penalties. That’s a step in the wrong direction – towards more criminalization of everyday actions online. We need to update the CFAA – and that means making it so terms of service violations aren’t felonies and bringing punishments in line with the crime.

More details about the rally may be found here:

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Charles Furman
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