Congresswoman Names Law After Dead Guy, But Wait! This One Might Be Good!

Aaron Swartz's death inspires effort to scale back federal authority


Zoe Lofgren, attempting to use public outrage to try to reduce the power of the federal government for a change

California Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) appears to be trying to upturn the common (at least among libertarian circles) wisdom that laws written in memorial to somebody who died tragically are generally awful.

As noted on Reason 24/7, Lofgren is proposing what she's calling "Aaron's Law," after Aaron Swartz, the young programming genius who committed suicide while facing federal prosecution for his antics downloading and "liberating" huge numbers of academic journal papers at MIT.

But to say she's proposing a new law is not quite accurate, and that's what makes her efforts different from typical memorial legislation. She's proposing amending an existing federal law to – get this – make it less powerful. I know!

Specifically, Lofgren has posted on Reddit draft legislation to change the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act so that the "fraud and abuse" it is supposed to fight no longer results in violations of a web site's or Internet service provider's "terms of use" being considered a federal crime. These "terms of use" violations were used to by the feds to hammer down more charges on Swartz, even though simply violating terms of use might not necessarily cause any actual economic harm. I'm not a legal expert, but Lofgren's proposed changes appear to require that the accused actually obtain or alter information he or she is not entitled to in order to constitute a crime. The feds would no longer be able prosecute just for violating a site's term of use. But feel free to contribute to Lofgren's Reddit thread, as she's looking for feedback.

A memorial law that actually tries to reduce governmental authority – will wonders never cease? And can we spread it to federal drug policies?

NEXT: Forget the First Amendment, SEC May Force Disclosure of Political Expenditures

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  1. She’s going to get a talking to from the party.

    1. Yep, the emperor won’t take kindly to this little peon trying to rain on his tyranny parade.

      1. There’s been a good long period now where the Democrats have been pro strong copyright. I think that has as much to do with music, publishing, TV, and filmmaking being in Democratic strongholds as with any affinity that actors and the like have for leftist politics.

        1. They know where their bread is buttered, Pro’L Dib.-)

          Also, good morning!

          1. Getting up before 7AM is not a “good” morning, doc.

            1. Meh. I’m up at 6:30 every morning. I share Maksim’s wish for you to have a good morning.

          2. Good morning, Dr. Chandra.

            1. HAL, could you fire up the coffee pot in Galley #2, please.

              1. I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

    2. CA and Dem – she’ll be back to batshittery before this law passes out of its first committee.


    Rachel’s Law. Not NEARLY federal though.

  3. If this ever gets to BO’s desk what are the chances it doesn’t get vetoed?

    1. I got a share of this job. Ten percent of nothin’ is, let me do the math here… nothin’ and a nothin’, carry the nothin’. . . .

      1. It’s Firefly night at H&R !

    2. There’s nothing in it for him to veto it, so he won’t.

      The real trick is shaming enough congress-creeps into voting for it.

  4. Nope. Still sleazy.

  5. Soft. On. Crime.

    In fact, you can’t be softer on crime than to reduce what is considered now a criminal act. I weep for a world where federal law can’t be made by anyone by simply drawing up a terms of use page for a web presence.

    1. Since no one actually reads the TOS for anything since they’re hideously long and written in mind-glazing legalese, I’m always secretly wondering if someone had slipped in an egregious clause about owing firstborn children, organ donations, or participation in orgies with Warty, how many people would click agree on it before it got noticed.

      1. See South Park‘s “HUMANCENTiPAD” episode for how bad it can be not to read your iTunes agreement.

        1. Some company, I forget who, did essentially that; they added a “they own your soul” clause to their EULA.

          1. Forgot to add: They did it as a joke, to point out how few people ever actually read the damn thing.

            1. Too late. I’m already outraged.

  6. I thought this law got tossed from that Facebook/MySpace impersonation case in California. The one where a woman posed as a teenager to harrass some other high school girl.

    1. No. The case was brought in CA, but the incident happened in Missouri (IIRC). Never got to appeal stage (where law’s constitutionality would be contested).

      1. That’s the Lori Drew case.

  7. “In 1994, Edwards decided to retire after 32 years in Congress. Lofgren entered the Democratic primary?the real contest in this heavily Democratic district?as a decided underdog, but managed to defeat the favorite, former San Jose mayor Tom McEnery. Lofgren’s victory virtually assured her of becoming only the second person to represent the district since its creation in 1963…”
    Blind squirrels and all that, but this is just one more lefty who ‘inherited’ a place at the trough.
    Screw her with someone else’s equipment.

  8. Well, who would have imagined it. The big all powerful government that the proglodytes have been cheering for more of, for decades, is out of their control and oppressing… them.

    Unintended consequences, proglodytes. Have you learned anything? Nope, of course not.

  9. OT, but for some truly mind-warping prose concerning how surfing is just, well, the most important thing anyone can do, and how, well, surfers are just, well, the most important people in the world since they’re so in tune to, well, just nature and things, well, and if Mavericks doesn’t happen, well, ….
    (Yes the Chron employs this guy)…..or-sunday/
    Oh, and the comments immediately jump on the PC ‘no wymyns?!’
    I don’t know the guy; maybe it’s sarc.

    1. dunphy has oft boasted of his surfing prowess.

      1. Morning Doctor!

        1. Dobroe utro, PS!

          1. Dobry den’, Maksim!

    2. For me surfing died with Patrick Swayze.

  10. I don’t think anything is real anymore.

    1. You should have taken the blue pill. I hear your GF agrees, Archduchy.-)))


      1. I had some very sweet dessert tonight and nothing tastes right.

    2. Dude. How fucking embarrassed must this guy be?

      Unless of course he was involved. Which makes you wonder why he would bring it to the University’s attention…

    3. Time for some Vandals…..o8EuOu1ojk

  11. Why aren’t more people talking about the likelihood that Te’o was using his fake gf as a beard?

    1. I thought it was more of a “I have a girlfriend buy she’s from Canada” thing

      1. Why can’t it be both?

        1. But what if my girlfriend really is from Canada?

          1. Then I’d say you are lucky I’m too civilized to take the cheap shot there.

    2. Why aren’t more people talking about the likelihood that Te’o was using his fake gf as a beard?

      They probably will be in the next few days if/when he finally confesses and comes out. As many have been saying, it is really the only logical explanation.

      “Hey, biggest celebrity college football player in the country. Why aren’t you banging every chick on campus?”
      “I have a serious girlfriend. She lives in California. We Mormons don’t cheat.”
      “So when are we gonna meet her?”
      “Oops, she died.”

      Then his alibi suddenly takes on a life of its own, bigger than anything since everyone in Chicago was worried about Ferris Bueller’s terminal illness. Cover of Sports Illustrated. Tens of thousands donated to Leukemia Society in her name. A freaking football game where the entire school wore leis in the stadium to honor the dead girlfriend. And all along, the Notre Dame PR machine playing it up as much as they could.

      So the big question will be, who is it a bigger deal to hide your homosexuality from — the Mormon Church or the NFL? We may soon find out.

      1. So the big question will be, who is it a bigger deal to hide your homosexuality from — the Mormon Church or the NFL?

        Or Hawaiian culture?

        On the NFL: it is practically statistically fucking impossible that there are not now, nor have there ever been, any gay NFL players.

      2. Then his alibi suddenly takes on a life of its own, bigger than anything since everyone in Chicago was worried about Ferris Bueller’s terminal illness. Cover of Sports Illustrated. Tens of thousands donated to Leukemia Society in her name. A freaking football game where the entire school wore leis in the stadium to honor the dead girlfriend. And all along, the Notre Dame PR machine playing it up as much as they could.

        Did all of this really happen? I don’t pay much (read any) attention to sports.

  12. OT: this is too good. You have to read this. Liberal infighting produces the most amazing accidental insights.…..tml?hp=r11

    “What went wrong here is a lack of professionalism on the part of Stewart and his staff,” he (KRUGMAN) wrote. “Yes, it’s a comedy show ? but the jokes are supposed to be (and usually are) knowing jokes, which are funny and powerful precisely because the Daily Show people have done their homework and understand the real issues better than the alleged leaders spouting nonsense. In this case, however, it’s obvious that nobody at TDS spent even a few minutes researching the topic. It was just yuk-yuk-yuk they’re talking about a trillion-dollar con hahaha.”

  13. Random Canadian fact: 100% of Canadian 4th Grade students look up the french word for “Seal” in their first French Class.

    1. Shouldn’t that be “Grade 4”?-D

      1. WHEN I WAS 10 🙂

        1. Nope, I was actually 9.

  14. “I stand by our research on the topic, the due diligence, and my ignorant conclusion that a trillion-dollar coin minted to allow the president to circumvent the debt ceiling, however arbitrary that may be, is a stupid f—ing idea,” Stewart said. “I said, good day. And I’m a fan of Paul Krugman.”

    Well you have to give JS credit for standing up to the cathedral once in a while.

    1. Threading!!!!

      1. embrace your inner P Brooks

        1. I wonder if The Late P Brooks knows Te’o’s late imaginary girlfriend?

          1. I imagine he might.

  15. I’m entirely in favor of the proposed change.

    But so far as I can tell, Schwartz *was* guilty of obtaining data he wasn’t entitled to. So the proposed change wouldn’t have helped him.

  16. I think I might have to look at this in more detail, but isn’t this taking a rather anti-libertarian approach, attempting to invalidate contracts? Far better to address IP law instead…

    1. It’s not invalidating contracts, just stopping breaches from becoming a federal crime.

      1. Yes, parties can agree that certain acts or failures to act constitute breach, but they can’t make those breaches into crimes. Only government overreach can do that.

        1. But fraud is a crime, and it is certainly one libertarians think should be prosecuted.

          Schwartz repeatedly misrepresented his identity and provided false information in order to gain access to property the owners of said property didn’t want him to access. Why shouldn’t he go to prison for that?

          How is what Schwartz did any different from fraudulently gaining access to your house so he could copy files off your computer?

  17. Hey, why didn’t you mention Kennedy was on Red Eye? Or did you kick her out of Reason because she isn’t soft on gun control?

    1. Don’t let those hipster glasses fool you: she’s just another yokeltarian.

  18. This is my congresswoman, and that she’s actually doing the right thing makes me ask “Who is this woman and what have they done with Zoe Lofgren?”

    1. You see any large pods out on the lawn? Don’t go to sleep anytime soon near them!

      1. [Points at LTC(ret) John and screeches.]

  19. Sounds liek a pretty solid plan to me dude.

  20. In defense of copyright on academic journals:
    The subscription fees paid to journals ultimately are used to support the academic peer review process. No the reviewers don’t get paid, but the editors who manage journals do. The editors have the task of selecting reviewers appropriate to the paper topic, which is no easy task. And they have to hound reviewers to do a good job and return them on time when they aren’t getting paid for it.
    I don’t think academic journals make a shit ton of money either, and usually a university library pays the subscription fees. So an entire journal might survive on a few hundreds institutional subscribers. This isn’t like some big record company raking in millions for each single. Most journals are more like struggling indy labels who only make money off of a few hits.

  21. PS: They should really call it “Lori’s Law”.

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