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EU to refer disputed online piracy agreement to the European Court.

CYPRUS is among five EU countries which have refused to sign a disputed global agreement to tackle online piracy.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, commonly known as ACTA, which also aims to cut trademark theft, sparked protests across Europe this month over fears of online censorship and increased surveillance.

EU members Germany, Slovakia, Estonia, Cyprus and the Netherlands have refused to sign the agreement on the grounds that it endangered freedom of speech and privacy.

Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Latvia have expressed concerns about the agreement's impact.

The European Union's executive said on Wednesday it would refer ACTA disputes to the bloc's highest court to check whether it complies with EU fundamental rights.

"We are planning to ask Europe's highest court to assess ACTA's compatibility with the EU's fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and information, and that of protection," EU trade chief Karel De Gucht said.

Main opposition DISY said it recognised the importance of a binding agreement that secured intellectual property but "such an agreement cannot be in contradiction with fundamental rights of the EU like freedom of expression."

The party said it sided with other European parties which support an in-depth discussion of the matter at the European Parliament.

"Specifically, it should be ensured that the provisions of the agreement do not place restrictions and do not obstruct internet freedom, the flow of information and independent journalism," DISY said.

Among other measures, ACTA asks internet providers to cooperate with national authorities to crackdown on online piracy.

Discussion on ACTA will start on Wednesday at the European Parliament's International Trade Committee.

On Tuesday, a petition against ACTA signed by almost 2.5 million people will be handed to the Petitions Committee.

Since talks on ACTA began in Geneva in June 2008, internet lobbies and health campaigners have rallied against it, saying that overly strict copyright controls would exclude people from the internet and prevent developing countries from accessing generic medicines.

The European Commission on Wednesday stood by its decision to ratify ACTA, but said the plethora of complaints against the agreement prompted its decision to refer it to the European court.

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2012

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Feb 26, 2012
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