Thursday, January 17, 2013

Demand justice for Aaron Swartz

…via @DemandProgress, a new addition for #PetitionJunction. Say thank you for Creative Commons, blocking SOPA/PIPA, developing RSS, advocating for a free and open internet, and more. Besides, most of us have more than just a passing acquaintance with abuses of power. Here's Larry Lessig's message:


We spent Tuesday burying and mourning our friend Aaron. We're sad, we're tired, we're frustrated -- and we're angry at a system that let this happen to Aaron.  Now we want to set upon honoring his life's work and helping to make sure that such a travesty is never repeated.

We and Aaron's friends and family have been in touch with lawmakers to ask for help, and several of them -- who've worked with Aaron and Demand Progress on SOPA and other issues -- are beginning to take action.  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 who are accused of committing victimless crimes.

Click here to join us in demanding justice for Aaron and help make sure this never happens to anybody else.

1) Representative Zoe Lofgren has introduced what's been named  "Aaron's Law."  It would fix a key part of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which is one of the statutes under which Aaron was indicted.  We need to pass Aaron's Law AND further amend the CFAA.

The CFAA makes violations of a website's terms of service agreement or user agreement -- that fine print you never read before you check the box next to it -- a FELONY, potentially punishable by many years in prison.  That's how over-broad this dangerous statute is, and one way it lets showboating prosecutors file charges against people who've done nothing wrong.

Aaron's Law would decriminalize violating these agreements: They're essentially contracts, and as with other contracts, disputes about them should be settled in civil courts rather than in out of control criminal trials under threat of decades of prison time.
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.  Then we'll keep pushing forward.
2) Additionally, we asked Congressman Darrell Issa -- who controls the powerful Oversight Committee -- to open an investigation into prosecutorial misconduct in Aaron's case. 
Amazingly, he's already responded and is sending an investigator to the office of the U.S. Attorney who was pressing charges against Aaron. 

We want the inquiry to proceed, and to be broadened to include a more thorough investigation into rampant over-prosecution of alleged crimes with no victims -- as in the case of what Aaron was accused of.  And we want those who abused their power to be held to account.
We loved Aaron -- so many people loved Aaron -- and his death is tragic.  We and others who were close to him are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, and the calls for justice.  Thank you for joining us in that fight.

Aaron was a dear friend, and an ideological brother in arms. As others have spoken to at great length, he was indeed a passionate advocate for access to information and for a free and open Internet. He believed in these things for their own sake, but moreover as means towards the even deeper end of building a world defined by social and economic justice. He resisted the impulse to presume that he alone was responsible for his brilliance or should benefit therefrom, and he wasn't a techno-utopian: He was a communitarian, somebody who was deeply aware of our world's injustices and who understood the constant struggle that is necessary to even begin to remedy them. That's why Demand Progress exists.

We worked closely with Aaron over the last two or three years....it was never about just one campaign: He was honing skills and tools he wanted to use to build capacity for much broader social movements that would create fundamental, structural change. He'd taken to calling himself an "applied sociologist." He was trying to hack the world...

That campaign work quickly transitioned into Demand Progress and Aaron's conception of the initial petition in opposition to the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act, and then the ensuing 18 months of activism that helped bring down SOPA and PIPA. There are so many stories to tell about that effort... best told by Aaron himself, here. But Aaron's legal troubles began approximately commensurate with the launch of that anti-COICA petition, and it was clear that his persecution by an institutionally corrupted criminal justice system weighed heavily on him throughout the last two years, and certainly more so of late.

We are working with Aaron's friends, family, and colleagues to determine how best to pay tribute to him — it will surely entail engaging in political activism in service of making this world a more just one. We will be in touch...

-Demand Progress and Lawrence Lessig

Paid for by Demand Progress (DemandProgress.org) and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee. Contributions are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.


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