Italy raid nabs illegal satellite boxes


ROME -- Italy's ongoing battle to curb the country's endemic piracy problem took a dramatic turn Friday as police announced that they have confiscated more than 1,000 bogus decoder boxes that would allow subscribers to receive the satellite television signal from News Corp.'s Italian subsidiary Sky Italia.

Police in the northern city of Modena discovered the decoders after a tip-off about an illegal Asian import company, which brought the devices from China. Evidently, at least 200 decoders had been sold prior to the raid.

Police said it is not clear whether customers who bought the decoders were aware that they were buying an illegal device. The storefront selling the devices charged only slightly less than a licensed Sky-Italia retailer would charge -- though, unlike the legal service, the access to the Sky-Italia signal would continue after the subscription period expired.

Police said that the raid resulted in at least half a dozen arrests. Those found guilty of illegally importing and selling decoders could face up to three years and jail and a fine of 1,032 euros ($1,527).

Sky Italia was formed in 2003 by the merger of two rival companies -- Stream and Telepiu. Both were unprofitable, in part, because their signal protection technology was so easy to circumvent. Sky created high-tech barriers to make pirating the devices more difficult, but in recent years illegal methods have advanced enough to allow an increasing number of users to access the signal illegally.