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Members of Congress To Attend Aaron Swartz Memorial In DC

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, February 4 2013

Several members of Congress, including Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, are scheduled to attend a memorial for Internet activist Aaron Swartz Monday evening on Capitol Hill, where they'll also hear his friends' arguments to amend the nation's computer crime laws.

Swartz, a programming prodigy and autodidact, committed suicide in his apartment in Brooklyn, New York January 11. He was 26.

Federal prosecutors went after Swartz for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and for wire fraud after he bulk downloaded millions of journal articles from JSTOR while on MIT's campus network. He faced a potential prison sentence of up to 35 years and $1 million in fines.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is arguing that lawmakers should amend the CFAA to decriminalize the act of violating terms-of-service agreements, and further that the penalties should match the gravity and nature of the crime. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill with some of those proposals, and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte said in January that the committee may hold hearings on whether the CFAA needs to be amended or not.

In the meantime, Swartz's partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman published a blog post Monday arguing that Swartz was not depressed at the time of his suicide, pointing her finger once again at the Justice Department's approach to the case. The DOJ's press department did not return a phone inquiry on the subject matter.

The DC memorial is the latest high-profile event commemorating Swartz's life, following others in New York and San Francisco. Web developers have also held hackathons around the world in Swartz's memory.

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