Aaron's Law - Explained
What is Aaron's Law?
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Table of ContentsWhat is Aaron's Law?How is Aaron's Law Used?What Aarons Law was supposed to Address Why the Bill Failed to Pass
What is Aaron's Law?
Aaron's Law is a term referring to a 2013 bill that was introduced in the United States Congress. The bill is still pending after it failed to pass.
How is Aaron's Law Used?
Aarons Law is a bill that was proposed in order to amend the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The 1986 CFAA is a law that governs computer abuse in the United States. Aarons Law was named after the famous internet activist Aaron Swartz who died at the age of 35 years after committing suicide. Before ending his life, Aaron was facing a 35 years possible prison sentence plus a $1 million dollar fine. Aarons charges came after the prosecutor found him guilty of violating one of the CFAA provisions. He had unlawfully downloaded over two million education articles. According to CFAA, this was considered fraud because the academic articles he downloaded were supposed to be accessed only through subscription. Following Aaron Swartz's death, a California representative Zoe Lofge created the famous Aarons Law. He introduced the bill in 2013 to the US Congress for the purpose of amending the CFAA. The amendments were aimed at addressing some fundamental problems that existed within the CFAA.
What Aarons Law was supposed to Address
Aarons Law was created to address the following CFAAs issues:
- To separate the CFAA treatment of daily internet activity as an intention to commit internet fraud.
It was to exclude breach of terms of service as part of CFAA violations. It was to make the court differentiate between unauthorized access from hacking or cyber attacks. The Law was to consider things such as unauthorized access to online information, password log in requirements, and encryption not to be unlawful and, therefore, not prosecutable. However, the law maintained that acts such as government agency hack attacks, virus attacks, among others would remain prosecutable as stipulated in the CFAA. According to the current FCAAs provisions, a person who acts against a websites terms-of-service qualifies for a jail term. The penalties involve both prison terms and a fine when one downloads copyrighted material. These terms of violation were seen to be a harsh interpretation that would lead to heavy penalties on minor terms of service violations. This is what Aaron's Law was supposed to eliminate.
- To remove the FCAA redundant provision
Currently, the FCAA contains a redundant provision that subjects an individual to the possibility of facing multiple prosecution charges for a similar crime under various provisions. The multiple charges are, therefore, seen as unfair as they pave-way for excessive penalties to those convicted.
- Aarons Law aimed at reforming violations penalties
Reforming violation penalties intended to prevent the prosecutors from incorporating charges that are not provided under CFAA. It is important to note that, the current FCAA bill is unclear as it lacks specifications and clarity. Because of this, there are chances that prosecutors will incorporate criminal charges that would aim at behavior that goes beyond hacking. This would lead to unfair severe penalties such as long term imprisonment and/or heavy fines. However, this bill did not succeed and, therefore, it is still pending.
Why the Bill Failed to Pass
One major reason why the bill was rejected is that Congress felt that allowing password authorization so that people could get access to information and use it without permission, would pave the way to serious internet fraud. This may be dangerous even to state agencies. Note that though the bill was not able to pass, the Congress has been regularly amending the CFAA. The amendments were done in the following years; 1986, 1994, 1996, and 2002, respectively.