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EU refers ACTA to Court of Justice

ACTA, the controversial international anti-piracy and counterfeiting treaty, has hit another hurdle after the European Commission announced this morning that it would ask Europe’s Court of Justice to consider its legality

The Court is expected to provide a legal statement that clarifies whether the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and its implementation are fully compatible with freedom of expression and freedom of the internet.

The move comes after coordinated protests against the Agreement across the globe earlier this month organised by digital rights activists. Last week the European Commission responded by taking the highly unusual step of detailing all the negotiations and consultations that led to the signing of ACTA, countering allegations that the process was not transparent.

But more protests are scheduled for Saturday. Many of the protesters are concerned that the Agreement will limit what internet users can do online.

Speaking at a press conference today, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht defended the EU’s position towards ACTA, saying that EU negotiators had persuaded other parties to the deal to make negotiating texts public, and that debates within the European Parliament had “heavily influenced” the final version of the Agreement.

But he said that the Commission is a “democratic institution” and that it is important that the Court of Justice of the European Union gives its guidance on the legality of ACTA.

Another Commissioner, Viviane Reding, who holds the justice, fundamental rights and citizenship portfolio, said in a statement today that she is “against all attempts to block internet websites”.

“Even though the text of the ACTA agreement does not provide for new rules compared to today's legal situation in Europe, I understand that many people are worried about how ACTA would be implemented.”

She stressed that so-called three-strikes laws, which could cut off internet access without a “prior fair and impartial procedure or without effective and timely judicial review”, will “certainly not” become part of European law.

Managing IP has a dedicated page on ACTA, with analysis of all the negotiations.

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