The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is the law under which Aaron Swartz and other innovators and activists have been threatened with decades in prison.Since Aaron’s death, activists have cried out for reform of the CFAA. But members of the House Judiciary Committee are actually floating a proposal to expand and strengthen it — that could come up for a vote as soon as April 10th!

The bill adds to the current definition of “racketeering activity” so that it would now link back to the CFAA, such that if you are found to violate the CFAA as part of an activity that involves a variety of other crimes, you can now also be charged with racketeering. More specifically, if you look at that long list of related statutes in the definition to 18 USC 1961 (1), it will also include: “‘section 1030 (relating to fraud and related activity in connection with computers).”

Section 103 of the proposed bill makes a bunch of “changes” to the CFAA, almost all of which expand the CFAA, rather than limit it. For example, they make a small change to subsection (b) in 18 USC 1030 (the CFAA) such that it will now read: Whoever conspires to commit or attempts to commit an offense under subsection (a) of this section shall be punished as provided for the completed offense in subsection (c) of this section.

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