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Abstract

This Note argues that the proposed amendment to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act dubbed “Aaron’s Law,” created in the wake of the prosecution and subsequent suicide of hacktivist Aaron Swartz, should not be enacted as it is overly reactionary legislation which would have unfortunate and unjust repercussions in the realm of civil litigation. This Note first describes the circumstances under which Mr. Swartz found himself prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, namely his intrusion into, and downloading massive amounts of data from, large internet databases like PACER and JSTOR. This Note also explores the disputed interpretation of the CFAA phrase “exceeds authorized access” by the Circuit Courts of Appeal and according to the maxims of statutory interpretation, the particular phrase which Aaron’s Law seeks to amend. Then this Note examines Robbins v. Lower Merion School District, a case utilizing the existing language of the CFAA. Amending the language as proposed by Aaron’s Law would potentially remove a civil remedy in Robbins. This Note concludes that prosecutorial discretion should be used in cases like Aaron Swartz’s, so as to allow the CFAA to function as intended by Congress and to provide the Robbins plaintiffs, and similarly situated individuals, a meaningful remedy.

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