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Acta ratification stalled pending top EU court ruling

The European Commission is to refer the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Agreement (Acta) to the European Union's top court for legal guidance.

The European Commission is to refer the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Agreement (Acta) to the European Union's top court for legal guidance.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said the Commission is to ask the court to consider whether Acta clashes with the EU's fundamental rights and freedoms, according to the Wall Street Journal.

He said the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would provide guidance on what he called "a complicated treaty."

Although 22 EU member states, including the UK, have signed the agreement, it cannot be enacted before it is ratified by the European Parliament, which was to follow a debate originally scheduled for June.

However, the ratification process for Acta will now be suspended until the ECJ publishes its findings.

Five member states have yet to sign, including Germany, which has called for further discussion of the agreement aimed at improving the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) by setting international standards for dealing with copyright infringements.

Critics argue that it will lead to censorship of the internet, which has prompted thousands of people to protest against Acta in various cities across Europe, including London.

In mid-February, the president of the European Parliament added his voice to those of critics, saying in a German television interview that the treaty was not good in its current form.

Martin Schulz said the balance between copyright protection and the individual rights of internet users "is only very inadequately anchored in this agreement".

But in announcing the referral to the ECJ, De Gucht said he continued to believe that Acta strikes the right balance between ensuring protection of intellectual property and individual rights.

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