The European Commission has officially referred the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, to the European Court of Justice.
The Commission said in February that it intended to make the referral, to see whether ACTA was in line with fundamental rights. However, the European Parliament, which is set to vote on ACTA's ratification in June, has refused to delay that vote to wait for the ECJ's opinion.
There is a great amount of hostility towards ACTA within the Parliament, and digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes has already admitted that ratification is likely to be rejected. If that happens, the copyright enforcement treaty cannot come into force anywhere in the EU.
Kroes, however, is not the commissioner in charge of handling what is nominally a trade agreement.
In a statement on Friday, the spokesman of trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said the referral had gone ahead, asking the ECJ: "Is the envisaged Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) compatible with the treaties and in particular with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union?"
"The Court's opinion is vital to respond to the wide-ranging concerns voiced by people across Europe on whether ACTA harms our fundamental rights in any way," John Clancy said. "The European Commission has a responsibility to provide members of the European Parliament and the public at large with the most detailed and accurate information available."
"Let us reiterate our firm position that we call on the European Parliament to await this Court opinion before deciding on ACTA," Clancy added. Indeed, the Commission has previously pleaded with MEPs to delay the vote, but to no avail.
ACTA is an agreement that was drawn up behind closed doors and with no input from civil society.
Although it does also deal with physical counterfeiting, as its title suggests, the treaty focuses on harmonising digital copyright enforcement around the world. Many have suggested that its wording could criminalise individual file-sharers and work against free expression.