EU suspends international anti-counterfeiting pact ratification

European Commission referred ACTA decision to EU’s highest court amid vitriol

It may take a little longer for Europe to get on the same page as many of its industrialized peers when it comes to intellectual property rights. The European Commission today suspended its efforts to ratify the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which seeks to establish international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement.

Specifically, the treaty looks to establish an international legal framework for targeting counterfeit goods, generic drugs and Internet copyright infringement. ACTA also would establish a new governing body independent from the World Trade Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization or the United Nations. In October 2011, a number of nations including the U.S., Canada and Japan signed the pact. The European Commission also passed ACTA, but is awaiting ratification by all 27 EU member states.

A passionate outcry against ACTA had swept the EU in recent weeks. Critics of the trade pact took to the streets in protests in Berlin, Helsinki, Paris and Vienna. Much like with the recent uproar in the U.S. over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), the critics contend that the agreement will stifle free speech, the ability to access information and infringe on online privacy rights.

“Let me be very clear,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a statement, “I share people’s concern for these fundamental freedoms. I welcome that people have voiced their concerns so actively – especially over the freedom of the internet. And I also understand that there is uncertainty on what ACTA will really mean for these key issues at the end of the day.”

Because of this hailstorm of criticism and staunch opposition, the European Commission instead referred the decision to the European Court of Justice, which De Gucht said would help to clear away the “fog of uncertainty.”

“I believe that putting ACTA before the European Court of Justice is a needed step,” De Gucht said. “This debate must be based upon facts and not upon the misinformation or rumour that has dominated social media sites and blogs in recent weeks.”

Despite the concerns, De Gucht believes the court will provide the needed clarity to support a calm, reasoned, open and democratic discussion on ACTA.

For more about ACTA, click here.

For more on the EU decision, read NWI.com's coverage.

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