Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement to be referred to the European Court of Justice
23 February 2012
The legality of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is to be clarified by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). On Wednesday last (22 February), commissioners supported Karel De Gucht's proposal to refer ACTA to the ECJ in order to assess 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.
The European Commission has already passed ACTA to national governments for ratification. The Council adopted ACTA unanimously in December and authorised Member States to sign it. The Commission has also passed on ACTA to the European Parliament for debate and a future vote. However, in recent weeks, the ratification process of ACTA has triggered a Europe-wide debate on ACTA, the freedom of the internet and the importance of protecting Europe’s Intellectual Property.
"Intellectual property is Europe’s main raw material," says Mr De Gucht, "but the problem is that we currently struggle to protect it outside the European Union. This hurts our companies, destroys jobs and harms our economies. This is where ACTA will change something for all of us - as it will help protect jobs that are currently lost because counterfeited and pirated goods worth 200 billion Euros are floating around on the world markets. ACTA will change nothing about how we use the internet and social websites today – since it does not introduce any new rules. ACTA only helps to enforce what is already law today."
Mr De Gucht emphasises that ACTA will not censor websites or shut them down; neither will it hinder freedom of the internet or freedom of speech.
"Let's cut through this fog of uncertainty and put ACTA in the spotlight of our highest independent judicial authority: the European Court of Justice," he says. "This clarity should help support a calm, reasoned, open and democratic discussion on ACTA - whether at the national or at the European level. We will also be in contact with the other European institutions to explain this step and why it would make sense that they make the same move."
For more information about ACTA, click here.