Three Efforts to Crowdsource Amendments to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, in Honor of Aaron Swartz: Lofgren-Wyden, EFF, and ForktheLaw

At least three separate efforts to crowdsource amendments to the U.S. federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) appear to have recently been launched:

[UPDATE: Daniel Schuman kindly just told me of a fourth effort: Professor Orin Kerr has been crowdsourcing revisions to the statute at Volokh Conspiracy. In addition, Meredith L. Patterson just told me that Fork the Law is run by a group, of which she and Nadim Kobeissi are members; the Fork the Law personnel are listed here.]

At least the first three of these efforts are being undertaken expressly in honor of Aaron Swartz, who, before his death, was prosecuted for alleged violations of the CFAA, among other statutes.

What’s notable to me about these efforts is their variety:

  • variety of leaders (official legislators, public interest lawyers, a programmer, a law professor)
  • variety of ideological perspectives (from moderate Democratic to libertarian)
  • variety of intended audiences (including a broad general Internet audience, civil libertarians, programmers, the legal community)
  • variety of platforms (a general social news site, a collaborative legal blog, the Website of a public interest law firm, a purpose-built site)
  • and a variety of tools with which public attitudes and comments are posted, aggregated, processed, and then re-published for further public input.

The potential value of distributed and parallel crowdsourced drafting efforts is also apparent. Holding these different drafting efforts, targeted at different audiences with different types of knowledge and experience, in public on the open Web allows each of these drafting communities to learn from the others and adjust its draft accordingly, while maintaining its distinctive perspective. In particular, each drafting community can benefit from both legal and policy expertise expressed in other communities. So certain of the potential information advantages of working on the open Web — notably increased quantity, quality, and diversity of input — seem very likely to be realized through these CFAA crowdsourcing efforts.

HT Alex Howard, Eric Mill, and Stephen Schultze

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