The 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act remains one of the most controversial federal tech-regulating laws on the books. It was meant to be an “anti-hacking” measure to protect against a range of online crimes, but thirty years later there is still little consensus about what a computer crime is, and what the law actually covers. The drafting was so imprecise, it’s conceivable we are all breaking the law all the time. Courts across the country have interpreted the CFAA in a variety of contradictory ways. Meanwhile, high-profile examples of its enforcement, such as the case against Aaron Swartz for downloading millions of academic articles, have prompted the passage of new state laws as well as proposed changes to the CFAA itself. An upgrade is sorely needed.
Join Future Tense and New America’s Open Technology Institute on Thursday, Sept. 29, in Washington, D.C., to reflect on the legacy and future of the law—and what lessons it offers for those crafting tech-related legislation.