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European Court of Justice to examine ACTA

European Court of Justice to examine ACTA

The European Commission has asked the European Court of Justice is to examine whether ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is incompatible with the European Union’s fundamental rights and freedoms, the EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht has announced.

ACTA, as previously reported, is an international legal framework for countries to join voluntarily, the goal of which is the standardisation of international intellectual property rights.

ACTA was first signed by the United States of America, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand and Singapore in October 2011.

Opponents of the trade agreement warn that ACTA would enable censorship of the Internet, as it would impose sanctions that could see Internet service providers monitor and censor online communications in search of copyrighted material. Critics of the agreement are also protesting the fact that ACTA seemed to have been negotiated in secret, away from the public spotlight.


Withdrawal of support

Joining the agreement on 26 January 2012 in Tokio were 22 of the 27 EU Member States, sparking massive European-wide protests against ACTA.

Under the pressure several EU Member States, among them Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Latvia and Bulgaria have withdrawn their support of ACTA, while Germany, one of the 5 EU states not to sign ACTA, has refused to ratify the controversial treaty.


Examining if ACTA is incompatible with EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms

Before it can be enforced, ACTA must be ratified by all 27 EU Member States and must  pass through the EU parliament.

To base the debate on ACTA  “upon facts and not upon the misinformation or rumour that has dominated social media sites and blogs”, the European Commission has now asked the European Court of Justice to examine whether ACTA is “incompatible – in any way – with the EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and information or data protection and the right to property in case of intellectual property”.

However, despite passing ACTA on to the European Court of Justice, the EU Trade Commissioner de Gucht remains steadfast in his support of the agreement, stating that “ACTA will not censor websites or shut them down; […] will not hinder freedom of the internet or freedom of speech, […] and will change nothing about how we use the internet and social websites.”


Picture: Protest against Acta in Denmark (source: Wikipedia)

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