THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has moved a step closer to referring the controversial ACTA treaty to the European Court of Justice after yesterday agreeing the legal submission to be made.
Commissioners agreed the terms of the submission yesterday, and will now ask the court – the highest judicial authority within the EU – to rule whether the anti-counterfeiting treaty poses a threat to the rights of EU citizens.
“Most of the criticism against ACTA expressed by people across Europe focussed on the potential harm it could have on our fundamental rights,” said trade commissioner Karel De Gucht, who proposed sending the treaty to the court for ruling.
“Considering that tens of thousands of people have voiced their concerns about ACTA, it is appropriate to give our highest independent judicial body the time to deliver its legal opinion on this agreement.”
The treaty – formally known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – is a deal which sees participating countries undertake new measures to counter the trade of counterfeited physical goods.
Although the deal is formally aimed at stopping the trade of physical counterfeit goods, its provisions require countries to take equal measures to stop material being distributed online, if sharing that material results in the breach of a person’s copyright.
Specifically, it sees member states agree to allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) disclose a user’s information to a copyright holder, where the latter has a sufficient claim that the user is breaching their copyright.
It also says member states will have to offer “effective legal remedies” to ensure that anti-theft measures – such as the Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection on purchased music files – cannot be circumvented.
The EU itself and most of its member states, including, Ireland signed the treaty in January. It cannot take effect within any individual country, however, until it has been ratified by the parliament in each one.
In the case of EU members, countries cannot begin to individually ratify the deal until the European Parliament has already done so.
MEPs were expected to vote on the treaty this June, but De Gucht has appealed to them to hold off on their vote until the European Court of Justice has an opportunity to consider its legality.
Gallery: Anti-ACTA protesters march in Dublin