updated 12:00 pm EST, Wed February 22, 2012
EU passes ACTA onto European Court of Justice
The European Commission reacted to mounting pressure Wednesday by at least temporarily halting plans to ratify the ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) proposal, choosing to pass it to the European Court of Justice for inspection. The continent's high court will decide if ACTA violates fundamental EU rights. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht took a balanced position, wanting neither to accept media labels' views at face value nor act based on preconceptions held by some of those protesting the measure.
"This debate must be based upon facts and not upon the misinformation or rumor that has dominated social media sites and blogs in recent weeks," De Gucht said.
Protestors and critics of the bill maintain ACTA would restrict free speech and access to information, such as by allegedly pushing countries into three-strikes policies against their will and making it difficult for individual countries to contest the mreasure. The Parliament wants the details of the bill to be made clearer. Legal opinions from several committees in the European Parliament have been sought to this end.
ACTA proponents say the bill would protect copyrights not just for music and video but for drugs. The arguments have been undermined by negotiations and signings in individual countries that have been kept as secret as possible. Many have interpreted this as knowledge that ACTA would be unpopular and a way of keeping it out of public debate. The EU's supervisor for the process resigned in protest at what he saw as an attempt to railroad the bill into law without opening it to scrutiny.
Countries that have signed the agreement so far include Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, the US, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea. The EU and 22 member states also signed it, while Mexico and Switzerland heard the presentation by have not signed. Countries still need to ratify relevant bills after signing. [via AP]