The group are anxious to make their fans aware of why they regard copyright protection as such an important issue...

Metallica are to set up a forum on the Internet to keep fans updated on the MP3 debate and explain their anti-Napster stance.

The forum is being set up on the website, and should be ready to view next week.

A spokesperson for ArtistDirect said: “The reason Metallica are doing this forum is so information can get out to fans quickly on why the band believes the issue of Napster and copyright protection is so important. It will include everything from information pieces to where people can find out more about the issue.”

She added that the band will be directly involved with the site, and will launch it with an introduction written by Metallica themselves, updating it when new issues arise and their work schedule permits.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of Seagram, one of the world’s biggest record industry corporations, has lashed out at free MP3s on the net. Speaking at a conference in California last week, Edgar Bronfman Jr compared it to shoplifting from record stores and said he was moving “a Roman legion or two of Wall Street lawyers” to stop his artists’ music being downloaded free.

He said the power of the Internet could devastate musicians by undermining their copyright protection, and also bizarrely likened his war against MP3 to World War II, and claimed that like the Soviet Union, the Internet would “crack, crumble and collapse” if free downloading was not stopped.

Bronfman, who said musicians were treated as “slaves” by people posting their music free of charge on the net, also outlined plans for Seagram‘s Universal record label to make downloadable music, artwork, lyrics, production notes and eventually music videos available to buy on their website from this summer.

See next week’s issue of NME for a full report on the Napster controversy.