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The European Union announced today that it will ask the European Court of Justice for a legal opinion on the highly protested Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

For those not familiar with the trade agreement, ACTA is an international treaty aimed at giving countries the ability to stop copyright infringement and other forms of intellectual property theft — a standard framework so that all countries around the world can charge and prosecute digital piracy. However, many Europeans have protested against the trade agreement under the claim that it could stifle free expression on the Internet while not directly addressing the problem of piracy in a meaningful way. ACTA has also come under fire due to the secrecy behind getting EU trade partners to sign the agreement without consulting the public.

The court is being asked to determine if ACTA — as well as its implementation — complies with the EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms, according to EU trade head Karel De Gucht.

“Let me be very clear: I share people’s concern for these fundamental freedoms … especially over the freedom of the Internet,”  De Gucht said in a statement reported by the BBC. “This debate must be based upon facts, and not upon the misinformation and rumour that has dominated social media sites and blogs in recent weeks.”

ACTA has already been signed by 22 EU member states, including the U.S., U.K., Japan, and Canada. More recently, countries like Germany and Denmark have refused to sign the agreement due to the widespread protest across the continent. Since ACTA is intended as a universal framework for stopping digital piracy, having a few key democratic countries that do not comply will likely weaken the overall effectiveness of the trade agreement.

Image via kihupotru

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