back to article 'Aaron's Law' back on the table to bring sanity to US hacking laws

The so-called "Aaron's Law," named after the late activist Aaron Swartz, is back before US Congress having been reintroduced on Wednesday in both houses. Silicon Valley rep Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and tech-savvy senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) have put the legislation on the table a second time after it was effectively ignored last …

  1. tkioz

    Yeah I don't see this passing. Not in "tough on crime" America.

    1. MrDamage Silver badge


      Yeah I don't see this passing. Not in "tough on crimes commited by anyone not in government, or their related 3 letter agencies" America.

    2. Thorne

      Yeah I don't see this passing. Not in "tough on copyright crime" America.


      1. DocJames

        "tough on copyright, tough on the causes of copyright" America

  2. jake Silver badge


    "Hacking such as phishing, introducing malware, and DDoS attacks, would still be within the CFAA."

    None of the above are "hacking". The first two are "(anti)Social Engineering", the third is "Fuck-witted Asshattery". Very, very few of the idiots who partake in such attacks could hack their way out of a wet paper bag.

    1. cmannett85

      Re: Eh?

      They're using the Hollywood version of the term"hacking", which means using anything other than Facebook, YouTube, or MS Office.

      Oh look I have a terminal open - must be hacking, natch.

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: Eh?

        I think what they mean is separating cheeky actions like what Schwartz did (IE copyright theft, and less immediately harmful actions etc) from deliberate, malicious actions intended to harm (either financially, or by harassment, etc - think Cryptolocker).

        Hacking is fairly easily distinguished from piracy and suchlike in the eyes of the general public and the government (who are mostly non technical) and those are the people it has to be approved by, if you catch my drift.

        Steven R

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Eh?

        Oh look I have a terminal open - must be hacking, natch.

        I was sitting on a train, working remotely through a couple of SSH sessions (one of them IRC), when two teenagers walked past, catching a brief glimpse of my green on black terminals. "Oh look, a hacker".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eh?

      Looks like it's about doing harm or the intention to do harm vs just gaining access

    3. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Eh?

      Hacking now means "doing something I don't want you to do" - just ask weev.

  3. tom dial Silver badge

    Probably the bill should be passed and signed; it seems to carry the possibility of limiting some damage, even though it comes years too late. I am quite skeptical, however, that it will effectively keep ambitious and enthusiastic prosecutors under adequate control.

  4. James 51

    If they framed it as pro-freedom and anyone who opposes it as a STASTI communist it might stand a snowflakes chance in hell of getting past. The prison industry and prosecutors might not be so pleased though.

  5. Benjol

    Politicians talking sense?

    No chance of passing.

  6. breakfast Silver badge

    Meanwhile in the House Judiciary Committee

    Presumably Bob Goodlatte is considered oxymoronic by many coffee aficionados.

  7. WolfFan Silver badge

    It's supported by Rand Paul

    That means that i would look very carefully at all its provisions before agreeing (or disagreeing) with it. Mr. Paul has supported some very good things. He has also supported some very bad things, and some of those very bad things were rank insanity. For example, he 'supports 'gun rights'. From his website:

    As President, I vow to uphold our entire Bill of Rights, but specifically our right to bear arms.

    Those who support the second amendment must also vehemently protect the Fourth Amendment. If we are not free from unreasonable and warrantless searches, no one's guns are safe.

    I will not support any proposed gun control law which would limit the right to gun ownership by those who are responsible, law-abiding citizens.

    In the White House, I will remain vigilant in the fight against infringements on our Second Amendment rights.

    What his website doesn't say, however, is that he sees no reason for any firearms regulations whatsoever, which means that Joe Public could, should he desire, own a .50 caliber machine gun. Or, possibly, a nice Army-surplus 105-mm main battle tank gun, still attached to the main battle tank. (Actually, after the morning I've had, that last one doesn't sound like a bad idea... Target: large Cadillac, Quebec plates, driven by half-blind 90-year-old at 25 MPH in the 70 MPH zone of the Interstate. Load HEAT... No! Bad wolf! Down, boy! Even if shooting snowbird vehicles would be so satisfying, think of the craters you'd leave on the highway.)

    One needs a little more before deciding if this is just Rand Paul being loopy again.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sorry Aaron

    When the Swartz story first broke, I couldn't see the big deal. Obviously tragic for his family and friends, but the thousands of young men kill themselves every year (its a leading cause of death).

    Given an estimated 30USD cost for a typical academic paper, downloading a million of them would be quite an expensive dataset. To then publish that so others could use the knowledge for free seemed both irresponsible, and yet, truly selfless.

    Having since read thousands of academic papers, many of them simply aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Many were sponsored or otherwise funded in their production, and the academics responsible see next to nothing on the download fee.

    Most of the people reading the papers will be other academics or students who have a flat subscription fee and can download as many papers as they choose making the fiscal loss as presented wholly unbelievable. The dollar cost to the publishers will have been virtually zero.

    I got it terribly wrong. Making the information free would probably not have resulted in any appreciable loss to the publisher, even though continuing to do so might eventually have done so (if its truly free why would everyone pay the subscription? Some will, some won't, so some loss). The bottom line in all of this, for me, is that it simply wasn't worth it. It wasn't worth the loss of a young mans life for what? A little money, but not a lot. To send a message to the rest of us? To enact revenge?

    It wasn't worth it, and I'm ashamed that I once thought it was. The question is, have those collectively responsible reconsidered their opinion, or are we doomed to the same mistakes? Passing the law is the only real act of contrition that may make a difference.

  9. Stevie


    ... draw a distinction between hacking and unauthorized access.

    Good luck with that given that often that distinction isn't clear in the heads of those who do it.

    I'm beginning to see the intransigence of the prosecutors in the Aaron Swartz affair as a symptom of a much broader malaise loose in the justice system(s) of he country.

    The recent higher profile of cases involving over-zealous police at work are another, even if one allows for "press hysteria" bending the perceptions of what is going on.

    Most worrying is when one considers the privatization of prison systems incentivizing harsher penalties and treatment while incarcerated, and the over-reaching of the law enforcement forces that has gone on under the umbrella of anti-terrorism laws as behavior that would previously have been harshly criticized (if not illegal) is instead tolerated "for the public good" (the recent ukfup involving the FBI in Las Vegas being the most egregious example I can think of in recent times).

    No, I don't have a fix, but as John Oliver would say "This is a conversation we need to have as a nation".

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