House Judiciary Committee to look at hacking law in wake of Swartz’s death

He also added that the committee “may” hold hearings on the CFAA and Lofgren’s draft measure, but emphasized that “no decisions have been made yet.”

Swartz, a co-creator of Reddit, was accused of stealing academic articles from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He faced up to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

{mosads}Swartz’s family blamed the prosecutors’ aggressive charges for contributing to his death. Lofgren said the Justice Department was able to levy “disproportionate charges” against Swartz because of the vague wording and broad scope of the CFAA.

Goodlatte also plans to review possible reforms to a 1986 email privacy bill, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and work with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on the issue. Civil-liberties groups have said the law is out of date with current email technology because it allows police to read emails that are more than 180 days old if they secure an administrative subpoena, which is issued without a judge’s approval.

The Virginia Republican said he met with Leahy before he officially became chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and indicated “that it was our intention to take up ECPA and to examine it and look at  reforms we might address.”

“That’s as far as we’ve gotten … just an understanding that it’s an issue we both plan to work on,” he said.

Goodlatte declined to comment on the committee’s plans on immigration reform, but said it would continue looking at the hot-button issue of music royalties and hold multiple hearings on the issue. At the end of last session, the committee held a hearing that discussed a bill aimed at modifying the royalty rules for Internet radio, as well as the lack of a performance right.

“We’re definitely going to pursue the whole broad area of music licensing and continue to work on it,” Goodlatte said. 

This story was updated at 6:21 p.m. to correct that Lofgren’s bill is still in draft form.

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