On Prosecutors, Power and Vague Law

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was written in response to 1983′s War Games, according to EFF attorney Marcia Hofmann. Not only is it stone age in origin, much of its sweeping power rests in one ill-defined phrase — unauthorized access — and one contract clause — terms of service.

Yes, this is a law that is both civil and criminal in nature.

Those nuggets came from a roundtable discussion of cybercrime and the Aaron Swartz case hosted by the University of Washington on Monday night (recorded livestream). They punctuate a poignant and chilling first-person account of being caught in the vortex that is a federal investigation: Quinn Norton’s essay in Sunday’s Atlantic.

Pay attention to this law, which has been amended numerous times by technically illiterate Congressmen under the sway of powerful corporate interests. It is possible — not probable but possible — that more sane minds might prevail in this Congressional session, bringing needed reform to a legal system out of touch with social norms. (It is less likely, but possible, that the DOJ and White House could succeed in making the law even more draconian than it is today, as they have tried to do in the past.)

Here is Harvard professor Larry Lessig speaking to Aaron’s case and much needed legal reform:

YouTube Preview Image

aaron swartz quote

Cross-posted from WiredPen

Auf Stumbleupon zeigen
Auf tumblr zeigen

  • zusa1

    Thank Kathy for posting this. The presentation was long, but well worth it. The initial part of the presentation with pictures and video of Aaron as a boy was very touching.

    “You don’t need to believe Aaron was right to believe what the government did was wrong”