The European Commission officially referred a major new treaty aimed at protecting intellectual property, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), to the European Union’s highest court Friday. The Commission is making the referral to ensure that ACTA complies with existing EU treaties and laws, according to an EU spokesperson.
ACTA aims to protect intellectual property from online piracy and other copyright violations. Its referral to the European court appears to be an additional indicator of the growing controversy surrounding the agreement in the EU.
Last year, ACTA was signed by the United States along with a handful of nations including Japan, South Korea, and Australia. This year, it was signed by 22 of 27 EU nations. ACTA must also be officially ratified by at least six nations in order to go into effect, at which point it would be valid in those six nations. In Europe, many say ACTA will need the approval of the EU parliament, in addition to approval in all 27 nations, in order to be effective.
ACTA has been facing growing resistance, including street protests, in the EU in recent months. Critics say the agreement could inhibit freedom of expression online and possibly violate consumer privacy; some have also complained that the agreement was created in excessive secrecy.
The court's opinion is "vital to respond to the wide-ranging concerns voiced by people across Europe on whether ACTA harms our fundamental rights in any way,” said John Clancy, EU trade spokesperson, in a statement.
The EU parliament will begin formally debating ACTA this summer. It remains unclear, however, whether the EU court will make a decision on the agreement by that time.