The Italian Parliament has approved a new anti-piracy law that will put behind bars those who use counterfeit smart cards to access pay-TV channels.

While anti-piracy legislation already exists in Italy, prison terms had until now been excluded. But now, as legislators attempt to curb the rampant piracy which has caused millions of euros in losses to Italy's two pay-TV platforms, smart card counterfeiters and users could face up to three years in jail and fines of up to Euros 15,000.

The piracy problem in Italy is so bad that while two million people in the country currently subscribe to pay-TV operators Stream and Telepiu, a massive five million are believed to be using pirate satellite dishes and smart cards.

In the meantime, Rupert Murdoch still awaits the Italian antitrust authorities' decision over News Corp's bid to buy Telepiu from Vivendi Universal through a cash-and-debt agreement worth Euros 893 million.

The new single pay-platform, which will be named Sky Italia, is expected to launch in 2003.