Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Government News

'Aaron's Law' Introduced To Curb Overzealous Prosecutions For Computer Crimes 206

SonicSpike writes: Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced bipartisan legislation today to better target serious criminals and curb overzealous prosecutions for non-malicious computer and Internet offenses.

The legislation, inspired by the late Internet innovator and activist Aaron Swartz, who faced up to 35 years in prison for an act of civil disobedience, would reform the quarter-century old Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to better reflect computer and internet activities in the digital age. Numerous and recent instances of heavy-handed prosecutions for non-malicious computer crimes have raised serious questions as to how the law treats violations of terms of service, employer agreements and website notices.

"Aaron’s Law would change the definition of 'access without authorization' in the CFAA so it more directly applies to malicious hacks such as sending fraudulent emails, injecting malware, installing viruses or overwhelming a website with traffic."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

'Aaron's Law' Introduced To Curb Overzealous Prosecutions For Computer Crimes

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @06:56PM (#49523935)

    who faced up to 35 years in prison for an act of civil disobedience... he was offered a 6 month sentence if he would plead guilty. 35 years was the "street value" of his sentence. He killed himself rather than serve 6 months.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Plea bargaining is a disgusting practice that should be abolished.
      • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @07:30PM (#49524147)
        Plea bargaining is merely a symptom of having entirely too many laws such that almost everyone is guilty of something and far, far, too many laws that make illegal that which has no business being illegal. If you made plea deals illegal, the court system would be so backed up that it might take years to go to court over something as minor as a traffic violation.

        If you want to get rid of plea bargaining you're better off getting rid of the vast majority of vice crimes. The court load would drop to the point where it's no longer necessary to offer these kind of deals in the interest of keeping things moving.
        • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @07:54PM (#49524297)
          When Plea Bargains constitute something like over 90% of all sentences imposed, you know something is grossly wrong. Plea Bargaining is being used as an end run around having to grant people their Seventh Amendment rights. Sure, you can demand a trial, but if you do, we're going to throw every possible charge at you in a grossly disproportionate manner, in a trial you're probably not likely to win, especially if you're poor. Aaron actually had good legal representation, but the vast majority of criminal defendants don't.
          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

            The obvious immediate change in the system required is that prosecutors should no longer be allowed to referred to the sentence in any way. They merely prosecute the claimed crimes and should they prove their case's, the judge and jury decide the penalty as relates to each crime that was effectively prosecuted. Also to ensure the guilty does not go free (people tend to forget that part when an innocent person is penalised) that the prosecution always be required to prove guilt regardless of plea. Ensuring

            • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @11:29PM (#49525259)
              The problem is also that the District Attorney is the one who chooses to charge someone with a crime or crimes. Grand Juries are no help - as has been noted many times before, they're entirely ineffective as a check on the DA. Also, the DA generally does not impose or choose the sentence - they merely recommend to the judge, who generally accepts that recommendation. So, the way it works is that the DA loads up the list of charges, then offers to drop most of them if you plead to one or two.

              The core problem is one of perverse incentives, because we reward DAs and prosecutors not for seeing justice done, but for winning cases, regardless of whether an innocent or guilty person was locked away. They're incentivized to lock away lots of people, so they can seek higher office of some sort. At the same time, they're immunized from legal retribution for even some of the grossest, most deliberate legal misconduct, including stuff that goes far beyond any of this, like deliberately concealing evidence that an accused is innocent.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're angry at him for being stronger than you. That's right, the suicide had more courage and moral fortitude than you ever will or can. You have admitted it, and you will never stop repeating that admission.

      • no, sorry but unless you are terminal, it is the weakest thing you can do
        • no, sorry but unless you are terminal, it is the weakest thing you can do

          Even weaker is spouting nonsense about people who commit suicide, without the slightest clue why it happens.

          • been there, almost did that. I know what im talking about.

            there are legit reasons, but 95% of the people who do it do not have legit reasons.
        • no, sorry but unless you are terminal, it is the weakest thing you can do

          His suicide is changing the world more than most people's lives.

    • NO, he was offered the deal and REFUSED it, as he didn't want ANY criminal record. Faced with either a crim record or 35 years AND a crim rec, he chose. Still, I don't think I would have chosen death, but I'm not him.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        If one is that concerned about having a criminal record one should refrain from committing crimes. All he had to do was write a short post on his blog to call attention to whatever issue it was that was bothering him. Instead he broke into a server room, installed a computer, and illegally downloaded thousands of documents. I think 6 months and a criminal record is about right for that sort of thing.
        • by Lloyd_Bryant ( 73136 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @09:28PM (#49524779)

          If one is that concerned about having a criminal record one should refrain from committing crimes. All he had to do was write a short post on his blog to call attention to whatever issue it was that was bothering him. Instead he broke into a server room, installed a computer, and illegally downloaded thousands of documents. I think 6 months and a criminal record is about right for that sort of thing.

          Give me a break. There was no "locked server room" - he entered an unlocked wiring closet. The computer he "installed" was a laptop he set on a shelf (near the property of a homeless man, who was using that wiring closet to store things). He then downloaded documents that it was perfectly legal for him to download - he just automated the process so that he was downloading them a heck of a lot faster than the JSTOR people were expecting.

          So at most he was actually guilty of misdemeanor breaking and entering (and I'd be willing to argue that one, since the closet wasn't actually secured in any way), and maybe some civil copyright infringement if he posted the JSTOR documents for others.

          6 months and a felony conviction was *way* too much for his actual offenses.

          • He concealed what he was doing, which suggests he knew that he was doing something with the network that the owners and administrators of the network didn't want to happen (It wasn't even a network he had formal access to, but rather a network that had very loose security). He also DOS'd the site he was downloading papers from, and that hindered innocent people in their work. I suggest that is and should be illegal. Had he lowered the rate of requests to the point of background noise, his project would

        • It was a closet in a college campus, it's not like he broke into Fort Knox. The door was unlocked. Shenanigans happen all the time on that campus. Students once put a live cow on the roof of what is now the East Campus dorm. Richard Feynman notoriously honed his lock-picking and safe cracking abilities while a student there. Somebody apparently put a campus police car on the Great Dome, replete with flashing lights, a plastic police officer and box of donuts. Should all those people have been arrested and t

    • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @07:57PM (#49524321)

      he was offered a 6 month sentence if he would plead guilty.

      Oh yes, that's how it works today in Amerika! "We don't give a shit what you did, but YOU MUST BE GUILTY." All you fascists get a sexual thrill from that all-important admission of guilt. You just love how, once somebody gets in your clutches, you can fuck up their entire life by disenfranchising them, disarming them, and eliminating the possibility of them ever getting a decent job. And it's "only a six month sentence." Six months, my ass!

      Six months is just as unjust as a goddamn death sentence when you've DONE NOTHING WRONG!

      • http://en.memory-alpha.org/wik... [memory-alpha.org] "I've been told that I've already been charged, indicted, convicted, and sentenced. What would I need with a lawyer?" "Well, Mr. O'Brien, if it sounds immodest of me I apologize, but the role of public conservator is key to the productive functioning of our courts. I'm here to help you concede the wisdom of the state."
    • should we leave the possibility of a shorter than 35 year sentence up to the discretion and good will of the prosecutor or should we have laws that provide for reasonable punishment?

    • Six months is a long time to be behind bars. Most people couldn't survive that financially. Some wouldn't survive it physically. We should be using community service far more than we do, especially for nonviolent crimes. It's not a "slap on the wrist," it's literally making the person compensate society, as opposed to using society's resources to exact sadistic revenge by putting someone in prison.

    • 35 years was the combined maximum possible sentence. There is no such thing as "street value" of sentences.

      During sentencing (if he was found guilty and accountable) is when the judge or jury decides on what punishment is dealt, CAPPED by the maximum. In white collar crimes, it is rarely if ever give the maximum sentence.

      He was caught doing a similar stunt prior to the JSTOR incident, warned that what he was doing was illegal.

      He trespassed onto MIT campus (he was not a member of the MIT community), trespass

  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @07:05PM (#49524009)

    Period

    Hacking is relatively benign compared to the damage a prosecutor with an agenda can do. The latest round of these travesties is now going on in Wisconsin http://www.wsj.com/articles/ri... [wsj.com] , It seems we get these popping up about once a year lately and it's been accelerating.

  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @07:24PM (#49524123)

    Why stop at "over" zealous?
    Zealotry should also be stopped.

  • A Travesty (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 )
    It is truly a travesty that a privileged asshole like Aaron who was handled with kiddy gloves all the way through gets this kind of credit, when there are numerous well documented cases of the actual overzealous persecution in the computer hacking world and beyond. People who were put into prison for decades, people who had the prosecuter lie and fake evidence, people who were unconstitutionally confined to solitary for months at a time.
  • If George Bush was President.

  • I'm so tired of seeing people masterbating over chances to honor Aaron Swartz I wish I could vomit on the laps of these political idiots. Yeah, the prosecution was heavy handed but that completely overlooks the fact that Swartz broke the fucking law and was a total idiot about it. He had the constitutional right to defend himself in court and face his accusers. He did not, however, have any constitutional right to enter the wiring closet at the library and interfere with other peoples' ability to use library resources just to further his agenda.

    I even agree that the papers should be accessible. But I do not agree with his methods. He could have downloaded all these papers from his own desk instead, but he had to make it into performance art and go enter the library wiring closet. And don't use the fact that the door was not properly locked as a defense, either - no reasonable person would have assumed that a wiring closet was intentionally left unlocked so people could monopolize library bandwidth at their leisure.

    In short, let the dead kid lay dead. He doesn't deserve any honors. He didn't deserve the ones he has already been given and doesn't deserve any additional ones either. He was a fool and a coward to boot.
    • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Wednesday April 22, 2015 @01:06AM (#49525551)

      > I even agree that the papers should be accessible.

      The papers are accessible. It's the extensive organization and indexing, which takes time and research and developers and databases to produce, that make JSTOR so useful and with Aaron Schrwartz was replicating wholesale. JSTOR is a non-profit, doing their level best to make the information as widely available as possible. They're generous with free subscriptions for libraries and schools with fiscal issues, and many if not most of their subscribers allow free individual access, to non-members, with JSTOR's blessing.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Wednesday April 22, 2015 @08:13AM (#49526611) Homepage

      Yeah, the prosecution was heavy handed but that completely overlooks the fact that Swartz broke the fucking law and was a total idiot about it.

      That completely overlooks the fact that threatening a young man with 35 years in prison is going to put unbearable stress on him. We see it all the time, for example in the UK where many innocent people committed suicide over accusations of paedophilia that came about because the police were both lazy in their investigation and heavy handed in their prosecution.

      Honouring him isn't so much about what he did or who he was, it's about saying that prosecutors throwing the book at people and causing them to become suicidal is not justice. He didn't deserve to die for what he did, or to go to jail for 35 years. In reality he might have got six months tops, for what basically amounts to civil copyright infringement, but the prosecutor went nuts and his death is the entirely unacceptable result.

      • Yeah, the prosecution was heavy handed but that completely overlooks the fact that Swartz broke the fucking law and was a total idiot about it.

        That completely overlooks the fact that threatening a young man with 35 years in prison is going to put unbearable stress on him

        He had - until he took the coward's way out by taking his own life - the constitutional right to a fair trial. He could have defended himself or had an attorney do it for him. It is not uncommon in this country for prosecutors - particularly long before a trial has begun - to suggest that they will shoot for the moon with punishment. However the maximum possible sentence is very rarely handed down.

        In the end, though, he knew what he did was illegal. He was never granted access to that wiring closet

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          until he took the coward's way out by taking his own life

          With such a poor understanding of mental illness and stress I don't think I can explain this one to you in a way that you will understand, at least not within the confines of a /. comment. Perhaps someone else more proficient than I would like to try.

          • If there was any indication of him having had mental health issues (beyond illusions of grandeur) prior to the announcement of the charges against him, then if anything memorials for him should be for mental health awareness. Instead people are dedicated to making a martyr out of him in spite of the fact that he broke the law.

            And your condescending assumptions do nothing to move the conversation forward.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      but that completely overlooks the fact that Swartz broke the fucking law and was a total idiot about it

      Yeah! He's just like those jaywalkers. They should be shot. All of them. And those people who litter. Hanging's too good for them I say, but I guess it would be too expensive to really give them what they deserve. Don't forget those people who are driving above the speed limit. They should have their car seized and confiscated, at a minimum. The law is the law, and if you are accused of breaking it you are a dirty criminal who deserves what's coming to you.

  • But this only seems superficially better to me, and possibly worse.

    "The proposed definition for âoeaccess without authorizationâ is: to obtain information on a computer that the accessor lacks authorization to obtain, knowingly circumventing technological or physical measures designed to prevent unauthorized individuals from obtaining that information."

    The problem is with the word "knowingly," to say nothing of the lack of any standard for a technological authorization method. "Knowingly," is men

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

Working...