Fix the CFAA, or become a racketeer

You know those service agreements that you never read?  The ones that say who knows what, because who can wade through a dozen pages of legalese?  The ones that say it's a violation to go to the website of the magazine Seventeen if you are under 18?  The ones that set Aaron Swartz up for a twenty-five year prison sentence, for violating the terms of service of an academic website?  He only downloaded journals he was entitled to download, but he did it in a way that violated the small print.  Even though the journal in question did not want to press the matter, the US Department of Justice decided to press felony charges.  Faced with this, Aaron Swartz took his own life.

In Swartz's memory, responsible members of the US Congress proposed a new bill to fix the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the legislation under which he was prosecuted.  Now, the Judiciary Committee is moving to amend the bill to make it worse, not better.  Violating those innumerable service agreements will now be classified as racketeering, on a par with the activities of the Mafia, entitling the government to sieze your assets as well as send you to prison.  There may be a move to pass the amendment this week.  If you are a US citizen, go here to learn more and send a message to your congressman. Or shortly you, me, and everyone else will be eligible for the same treatment as a mobster.


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