Pop star Prince has sparked an angry backlash by threatening to sue thousands of his fans for breach of copyright on a number of websites.

A fans' group named Prince Fans United, representing Housequake.com, Princefans.com and Prince.org, claims the star is in "violation of freedom of speech".

The coalition has said it will contest any legal action as it feels Prince and his lawyers are trying to "stifle all critical commentary".

The three sites have been forced to remove all photographs, images, lyrics, album covers and anything linked to the artists' likeness as well receiving a letter requesting the site managers provide "substantive details of the means by which you propose to compensate our clients [Paisley Park Entertainment Group, NPG Records and AEG] for damages".

John Giacobbi, managing director of Web Sheriff, the UK firm the Purple Rain star has hired to enforce the ban, told the BBC it was "not an attack on fans".

"The dispute, in so far as there is one, is related to the use of photographs and images of Prince, many of which are Prince's copyright," he said.

"At the end of the day it's the artist's decision as to what they're happy to let people have."

Prince took action against YouTube in September, requesting the removal of around 2,000 clips and is believed to closely monitor unofficial use of his image and music from his studio complex in Minneapolis.

07/11/2007 14:32:54