Tag Archive: TMCPolitics

Feb 22 2013

Justice and the Law for Aaron Swartz

Law professor Lawrence Lessig marked his appointed as Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School with a lecture dedicated to the memory of internet activist Aaron Swartz and his work. Prof. Lessig was a close friend and mentor to Aaron and his death was a great loss to him. He had planned to lecture on corruption but after Aaron’s death decided to discuss Aaron’s Law and his work:

At the center of [Aaron’s] struggle is and was copyright.  In the debate between people who are pro and anti copyright, Aaron was on neither side.”  Rather, he opposed “dumb copyright.”  A perfect example was Swartz’s efforts to liberate data from PACER the database of public court records, which charged 8 cents a page.  He was not violating copyright, technical restraints, terms of service or any other prohibitions.  He had found a loophole.  “A loophole for public good” as opposed to the loopholes used for private gain by lobbyists and tax lawyers.  Swartz did the same thing with the government’s database of issued copyrights.  The PACER project got Aaron FBI surveillance; the copyright project, on the other hand, was met with approval by the Copyright Office.  Using all this as proof Lessig continued to emphasize that Aaron was a hacker.  He defines “hacker” as one who uses technical knowledge to make a better world.

According to Lessig, Aaron was his mentor, not the other way around.  The two worked together, upon Aaron’s insistence, on anti-corruption campaign for a while before they split again: while Aaron wanted to turn Barrack Obama into Elizabeth Warren, Lessig wanted Obama to pick up the fight with corruption he had promised in 2008.  Without that fight, the defenders of the status quo would defeat real change.

Aaron’s Laws – Law and Justice in a Digital Age’

Jan 27 2013

The Legacy of Aaron Swartz

The White House announced a National Day of Civic Hacking, June 1 – 2, 2013, as the internet continues to mourn the hacker and activist, Aaron Swartz, who died of suicide at age 26. Aaron’s partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director and founder of SumofUs.org joins host Chris Hayes; Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; Susan Crawford, professor for the Center on Intellectual Property & Information Law Program at Carodozo School of Law; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor for The Atlantic on the Up with Chris panel to discuss the legacy of Aaron Swartz.

Jan 15 2013

In Aaron’s Name, Change This Law

SOPA Reddit WarriorComputer programmer, writer, archivist, political organizer, and Internet activist, but most of all son, brother and friend, Aaron Swartz tragically took his own life last week. One of the many achievements of Aaron’s too short life was to win a battle in the war for Internet Freedom, he helped lead the fight to Stop SOPA. SOPA was the Stop Online Piracy Act bill that sought to monitor the Internet for copyright violations and would have made it easier for the U.S. government to shut down websites accused of violating copyright.

This was Aaron’s address at F2C:Freedom to Connect 2012, Washington DC on May 21 2012.

Now we have a battle to fight in Aaron’s name to reform the law that overzealous federal prosecutors used against him, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Marcia Hoffman, senior staff attorney for Electronic Freedom Foundation, lays out the case for fixing this draconian law:

Problem 1: Hacking laws are too broad, and too vague

Among other things, the CFAA makes it illegal to gain access to protected computers “without authorization” or in a manner that “exceeds authorized access.”  Unfortunately, the law doesn’t clearly explain what a lack of “authorization” actually means. Creative prosecutors have taken advantage of this confusion to craft criminal charges that aren’t really about hacking a computer but instead target other behavior the prosecutors don’t like. [..]

Problem 2: Hacking laws have far too heavy-handed penalties

The penalty scheme for CFAA violations is harsh and disproportionate to the magnitude of offenses. Even first-time offenses for accessing a protected computer “without authorization” can be punishable by up to five years in prison each (ten years for repeat offenses) plus fines. It’s worth nothing that five years is a relatively light maximum penalty by CFAA standards; violations of other parts of that law are punishable by up to ten years, 20 years, and even life in prison. [..]

The Upshot

The CFAA’s vague language, broad reach, and harsh punishments combine to create a powerful weapon for overeager prosecutors to unleash on people they don’t like. Aaron was facing the possibility of decades in prison for accessing the MIT network and downloading academic papers as part of his activism work for open access to knowledge. No prosecutor should have tools to threaten to end someone’s freedom for such actions, but the CFAA helped to make that fate a realistic fear for Aaron.

In Aaron’s name please call on Congress and the White House to change this law.

Click here to send your message to your congressional representatives.

Please sign the Petition to President Barack Obama to Reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to reflect the realities of computing and networks in 2013.

Do this not just in Aaron’s name but mine, yours and everyone who uses the internet.