Heavy metal group Metallica and its music company have filed suit against Napster, the University of Southern California, Yale University and Indiana University over copyrighted music being stored on computer systems.

The suit, filed in US District Court, Central District of California, states that the defendants are "committing continuing copyright infringements, unlawful use of digital audio interface devices, and violations of the Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)", according to a statement issued by the group.

Napster, a software application used to download MP3 files, has been the source of much controversy lately. A large deal of that is based around the lawsuit by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), alleging that Napster runs a haven for music piracy.

The suit claims that Napster and the others have been encouraging and enabling users of its Web site to unlawfully exchange copyrighted songs with each other, without knowledge or permission of Metallica or its copyright holders, E/M Ventures and Creeping Death Music, the statement said.

"The trading of such information - whether it's music, videos, photos or whatever - is, in effect, trafficking in stolen goods," the group's drummer, Lars Ulrich, said in the statement.

The suit states that the sole purpose of Napster's software is to "permit Napster to profit by abetting and encouraging the pirating" of copyrighted works. It further states that universities and colleges, who could easily block the scheme, are facilitating Napster's effort.