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Has Aaron Swartz's death made him an internet 'martyr'?

Aaron Swartz was many things - a brilliant young technologist, an entrepreneur, and an advocate for internet freedom. But according to the United States government, he was also a criminal.

After downloading millions of academic papers from the online service JSTOR, Swartz was prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and faced up to 35 years in prison.

He denied the charges of computer fraud against him and his trial was set to begin this month. Tragically, Swartz committed suicide in January.

The case against Swartz and his ensuing death have brought new scrutiny to the US's anti-hacking law, which critics say is too vague and unnecessarily harsh.

Following Swartz's death, US House Representative Zoe Lofgren introduced an amendment to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act called Aaron's Law.

Aaron's Law is one of many new proposals that would seek to more clearly define what Congress considers hacking and lessen the penalties for breaking the law.

Produced for the BBC by Marc Georges, Marcus Zeffler and Bill McKenna

Photo Credits:

Daniel J. Sieradski/Creative Commons 2.0

Sage Ross/Creative Commons 2.0

Fred Benenson/Creative Commons 2.0

Video Credit:

Footage courtesy David Isenberg, Freedom to Connect Conference