Aaron’s Law

Definition of Aaron’s Law

Aaron’s Law is a term that refers to proposed legislation seeking to reform the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). This legislation was introduced in response to the death of internet activist Aaron Swartz, who faced severe, disproportionate charges under the CFAA. Aaron’s Law aims to establish more transparent and fairer legal definitions regarding technology use while ensuring that penalties are proportionate to the crime committed.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Aaron’s Law” is:ˈærənz lɔ:

Key Takeaways

  1. Aaron’s Law aims to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to prevent its overreaching application and reduce overly harsh penalties for minor offenses.
  2. The law is named after Aaron Swartz, an internet activist who faced severe legal consequences under the CFAA, ultimately leading to his tragic suicide.
  3. By proposing clearer definitions of terms and narrowing the scope of the CFAA, Aaron’s Law attempts to protect internet users from excessive prosecution for non-malicious behavior.

Importance of Aaron’s Law

Aaron’s Law is an important technology term as it refers to a proposed amendment to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) in the United States, brought forward after the tragic death of the prominent internet activist Aaron Swartz.

The amendment aims to clarify and narrow the scope of the CFAA, which has been criticized for its vague language and overly broad interpretations that can lead to harsh punishments for minor offenses.

Aaron’s Law seeks to protect the rights of internet users, promote digital innovation, and prevent the abuse of power by prosecutors in cases of alleged computer-based offenses.

This legislation holds significance in generating a fair and balanced legal framework for addressing cybercrimes while fostering creativity and freedom in the digital realm.


Aaron’s Law is a proposed legislation that aims to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), primarily focusing on reducing the severity and scope of punishments associated with computer crimes. The law is named in honor of internet activist Aaron Swartz, who tragically took his own life in 2013, following federal charges that accused him of illegally accessing and downloading millions of academic articles from the online database JSTOR.

Aaron’s Law aims to provide clear and fair standards for computer-related offenses, striking a balance between legitimate access rights and cybercriminal activities, to prevent the unjust punishment of individuals like Swartz who are not engaging in malicious or damaging behavior. The primary purpose of Aaron’s Law is to prevent the overreach of the legal system, ensuring that individuals who commit minor or non-malicious computer-related activities are not disproportionately punished.

For instance, Aaron’s Law intends to eliminate the ‘multiple punishments for the same action’ principle currently under CFAA, which can result in repetitive penalties for identical offenses. Additionally, the law seeks to clarify and narrow the definition of “unauthorized access” to distinguish between exploitative cybercriminal activities and other activities such as terms of service violations, research, or whistleblowing.

By targeting these aspects of the CFAA, Aaron’s Law aims to provide a more equitable legal framework for addressing computer-related offenses and honoring the spirit of innovation that drives the internet and digital technology.

Examples of Aaron’s Law

Aaron’s Law, formally known as “Aaron’s Law Act of 2013,” was a proposed U.S. law that aimed to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which was used to prosecute internet activist Aaron Swartz. Aaron’s Law was never formally enacted as legislation, but its core principles are meant to ensure that the CFAA is applied more rationally and justly. Here are three cases that highlight the need for reform in the CFAA that Aaron’s Law sought to address:

United States v. Aaron Swartz: Aaron Swartz, the internet activist and co-founder of Reddit, was charged in 2011 with wire fraud, computer fraud, and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer under the CFAA. Swartz allegedly downloaded millions of academic journals from JSTOR, intending to make them freely available to the public. Facing financial ruin and up to 35 years in prison, Swartz tragically committed suicide in

His case brought widespread attention to the harsh penalties and vague language of the CFAA, leading to the drafting of Aaron’s Law in response.

United States v. Lori Drew: In 2006, Lori Drew created a fake MySpace account to engage in cyberbullying against a teenage girl, which led to the girl’s suicide. While Drew’s actions were morally reprehensible, no specific law directly addressed her behavior. Using the CFAA, prosecutors charged Drew with unauthorized computer access for violating MySpace’s terms of service, even though many legal analysts argued this was an overreach. Eventually, the conviction was overturned on appeal, but the case highlighted the need for clearer legal distinctions under the CFAA.

United States v. Nosal: David Nosal, a former Korn/Ferry executive, was convicted under the CFAA for allegedly conspiring with former employees to gain unauthorized access to the company’s database for his own competing business. While Nosal’s actions were considered corporate espionage, his prosecution under the CFAA further emphasized the broad reach of the law and the potential for abuse in its interpretation.These cases showcase the need for better-defined regulations in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which Aaron’s Law aimed to address. However, it is important to note that Aaron’s Law was never passed, and these scenarios, unfortunately, remain relevant in demonstrating the potential for misapplication and abuse under the existing CFAA.

Aaron’s Law FAQ

1. What is Aaron’s Law?

Aaron’s Law is a proposed legislation aimed at reforming the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) in the United States. It is named after Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist, who was charged under the CFAA for violations related to unauthorized access to a computer system.

2. Who proposed Aaron’s Law?

Aaron’s Law was proposed by Representative Zoe Lofgren in the House of Representatives and Senator Ron Wyden in the Senate, following the tragic suicide of Aaron Swartz.

3. What are the main objectives of Aaron’s Law?

The main objectives of Aaron’s Law are to clearly define the parameters of unauthorized access, decriminalize the violation of terms of service agreements, and limit the harsh penalties imposed under the CFAA for minor offenses.

4. What is the current status of Aaron’s Law?

Aaron’s Law has not been passed by the US Congress yet. Since its initial proposal in 2013, the legislation has been revised and reintroduced multiple times but has not gained enough traction to become law.

5. Why is Aaron’s Law important?

Aaron’s Law is important because it aims to prevent the arbitrary usage and misinterpretation of the CFAA, ensuring that the penalties imposed are proportionate to the level of offense. By refining the definition of unauthorized access and excluding terms of service violations, the legislation could prevent the unjust prosecution of legitimate computer security research, innovation, and other harmless activities.

Related Technology Terms

  • Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)
  • Swartz Amendment
  • Unauthorized Access
  • Cybersecurity
  • Internet Activism

Sources for More Information


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