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Demand Progress Asks Followers to 'Demand Justice for Aaron Swartz'
Grassroots Organization, Founded by the Late Internet Activist, Asks Congress to End Prosecutorial Abuses, Amend Computer Fraud Law
WASHINGTON - January 17 - In a letter to their army of supporters Demand Progress and Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig expressed anger and frustration at the system that had their friend, Aaron Swartz, facing a 35-plus year prison sentence for downloading academic journal articles that were available to his network for free. The beloved Demand Progress founder and celebrated computer programmer, known for his pioneering work on such online staples as RSS and Reddit, took his life late last week.
"We are sad. We're tired. We're frustrated and we're angry at a system that let this happen to Aaron,” the letter begins. “We and Aaron's friends and family have been in touch with lawmakers to ask for help. We're asking them to help rein in a criminal justice system run amok. Authorities are encouraged to bring frivolous charges and hold decades of jail time over the heads of people accused of victimless crimes.”
The letter asks supporters to lend their voices to two efforts already taking shape:
1. Supporters are being asked to urge their members of Congress to cosponsor “Aaron's Law" and broader changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act" (CFAA). Aaron's law is being introduced by Representative Zoe Logren (D-CA) would amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to decriminalize violations of “terms of service”agreements. Under current law, failure to adhere to the letter of the lengthy legalese, that websites, applications and Internet service providers ask their users to "click" their acceptance to, is considered a form of computer and/or wire fraud that can be prosecuted as a felony. Under Aaron's Law, disputes over "terms of service” agreements would fall under the jurisdiction of civil courts.
According to Demand Progress executive director David Segal, "As currently written, Aaron's Law alone wouldn't have saved Aaron -- there is still more to do to make sure that victimless computer activities are not charged as felonies -- but this is a solid start that we can pass now and it's a law he wanted to change. And then we'll keep pushing."
2. Supporters are also asked to help Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, by backing his investigation into the possible prosecutorial overreach that led to Aarons death. Aaron's supporters are encouraged to ask Members of Congress and the administration to expand the inquiry's scope to include a more thorough investigation into the rampant over-prosecution of victimless alleged crimes and to hold those responsible for Aaron's prosecution to account.
According to Segal: "This is just a start. Demand Progress and Aaron's friends and family will continue to push for key reforms to the criminal justice system, and otherwise work towards forwarding Aaron's life's work. It's so hard to determine a fitting tribute to him: He cared about so much, had done so much, and would have done so much more if he were still with us."
The letter to supporters can be read in its entirety at: http://act.demandprogress.org/letter/aarons_law/
Demand Progress is a civil liberties and civil rights activism group with more than one million members.