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ACTA is dead: EU abandons referral to top court for ruling

The controversial international counterfeiting treaty will no longer be sent to the European Court of Justice.

Green MEPs cheer after the European Parliament voted down the controversial Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement.
Green MEPs cheer after the European Parliament voted down the controversial Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement.
Image: Christian Lutz/AP

A MAJOR INTERNATIONAL treaty aimed at curbing the trade of counterfeit goods now looks to be all but abandoned, after the European Commission abandoned a request that the European Court of Justice examine whether it was legal.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which had prompted international outcry when news of its impending signature emerged earlier this year, after internet users raised concerns that the treaty would impact on online privacy and freedom of expression.

The treaty would have required internet service providers to disclose a user’s details to a copyright holder, in cases where the latter had a sufficient claim that their copyright was being abused.

It also would have required countries to bring in laws banning the use of measures to circumvent copyright, such as internet proxy servers, or mechanisms to remove copyright protections on files like MP3s.

Others had raised fears that the treaty’s aims of clamping down on the real-world trade of counterfeit goods, and the reinforcement of copyright rights, could mean generic equivalents of brand-name drugs could be declared illegal.

Ireland and 24 other European Union countries, as well as the EU itself, signed the treaty in January. However, the treaty could not take effect until it was ratified by each country’s parliament, and first by the European Parliament.

The European Parliament overwhelmingly defeated the treaty in a vote in July, though the European Commission said it would consider asking for another vote after it sought the European Court of Justice’s ruling on whether the treaty was compatible with the EU’s own founding treaties.

This request has now been abandoned – meaning that the treaty cannot take effect on an EU-wide basis, and is therefore unlikely to be adopted by individual countries.

While member states are still free to adopt the treaty themselves, the lack of any EU-wide consensus on the treaty will mean such deals are unlikely – and will also make the treaty largely unenforceable for other countries, such as the US and Japan, where it was also due to be ratified.

The president of the European Parliament’s socialist group, Hannes Swoboda, said it was “about time” that the Commission abandoned its hopes to ratify ACTA.

“It was the best decision, because the European Parliament’s vote last July had already made it a dead end for ACTA,” he said.

Read: EU digital affairs chief admits controversial ACTA treaty likely to fail

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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