Aaron Swartz And How A Martyr Makes A Law

Brian Resnick | Nextgov | February 6, 2013

Congress enacted the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in 1984, before there was a World Wide Web. And yet, it took Internet wunderkind Aaron Swartz’s apparent suicide for efforts to reform it to get traction. Sometimes to make a law, it takes a martyr...Now, in death, his accomplishments, coupled with his connections in Washington, are galvanizing to establish a law—“Aaron’s Law”— that would exonerate him.

It's hard to talk about Swartz without painting him as a mythical figure. He taught himself to read at the age of three. He invented the RSS protocol during his teenage years. He was a big thinker, and penned manifestos on information freedom. He read economics textbooks for fun. And he cofounded Reddit. He died at 26 years old, leaving many to wonder what potential was lost with him. There's an emotional weight, a narrative that gets tied to this piece of legislation, which became clear Monday night at a memorial for Swartz on Capitol Hill.

It was a crowd of contrasts in the after-hours Cannon caucus room. Liberal Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D- Mass., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sat not too far from Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California. There were also more colorful figures, including a man whose back-length dreadlocks adorned with bits of colored string and beads clacked around as he approached his seat. And yes, there were a lot of twentysomethings with beards...