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Ted 02-24-2012 04:55 AM

Acta: EU court to rule on anti-piracy agreement

22 February 2012 Last updated at 13:03 GMT

Acta: EU court to rule on anti-piracy agreement
By Dave Lee Technology Reporter

The European Union's highest court has been asked to rule on the
legality of a controversial anti-piracy agreement.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta) has been criticised by
rights campaigners who argue it could stifle free expression on the

EU trade head Karel De Gucht said the court will be asked to clarify
whether the treaty complied with "the EU's fundamental rights and

The agreement has so far been signed by 22 EU member states.

The European Commission said it "decided today to ask the European
Court of Justice for a legal opinion to clarify that the Acta
agreement and its implementation must be fully compatible with freedom
of expression and freedom of the internet".

Several key countries, including Germany and Poland, have backed away
from the treaty amid protests in several European cities.

Acta is set to be debated by the European Parliament in June.

While countries can individually ratify the terms of the agreement, EU
backing is considered vital if the proposal's aim of implementing
consistent standards for copyright enforcement measures is met.

As well as the 22 European backers, which include the UK, the
agreement has been signed by the United States, Japan and Canada.

'Misinformation and rumour'

Mr De Gucht told a news conference on Wednesday: "Let me be very
clear: I share people's concern for these fundamental freedoms...
especially over the freedom of the internet.

"This debate must be based upon facts, and not upon the misinformation
and rumour that has dominated social media sites and blogs in recent

However, he went on to say that the agreement's purpose was to protect
the creative economy.

"[Acta] aims to raise global standards for intellectual property
rights," he said, adding that the treaty "will help protect jobs
currently lost because counterfeited, pirated goods worth 200bn euros
are currently floating around".

Acta's backers face strong opposition within the EU. Viviane Reding,
the commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, took
to Twitter to outline her worries on the treaty.

"For me, blocking the Internet is never an option," she wrote in a

"We need to find new, more modern and more effective ways in Europe to
protect artistic creations that take account of technological
developments and the freedoms of the internet."

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