Dear Mr. Dreves:
Thank you for contacting me in support of reforming the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. We are in agreement.
Aaron Swartz’s tragic suicide was a stark reminder of one of the major flaws in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act- The law makes no distinction between online criminal activity such as fraud and violating the terms of service of a website. Both can lead to years in jail and astronomical fines. Online crimes that defraud people or companies deserve such stiff penalties. Violating the terms of service of a website does not.
Aaron Swartz faced 13 felony indictments for downloading too many articles from the JSTOR database, which he had legal access to. No one knows what he intended to do with the articles. This was a violation of JSTOR’s terms of service, not a crime deserving of up to 35 years in jail and a $1 million fine.
JSTOR called Aaron’s activity a “significant misuse” of their database, but stated that it would not pursue civil action against him. Federal prosecutors decided to press charges against Aaron anyway. It is time that the Justice Department got its priorities straight and went after the real criminals in society, not people like Aaron. I am absolutely stunned that the Justice Department found the time and resources to prosecute Aaron for a contract violation when they have failed to even propose a criminal prosecution for any activity on Wall Street that collapsed our economy in 2008.
My colleague Rep. Zoe Lofgren is in the process of drafting Aaron’s Law, which would treat the violation of a website’s terms of service as a breach of contract rather than criminal activity. She has posted a draft of the bill for review on Reddit, a website that Aaron helped create. Once this bill has been reviewed by the online community and introduced in Congress, I look forward to supporting it.
Thanks again for writing. Please continue to keep in touch.