AOL shuts down Its MP3 search engine

America Online Inc. shut down the MP3 file search engine on its Nullsoft Winamp music player site that enabled its users to search the Internet for music Wednesday.

Users attempting to search MP3-formatted songs are greeted with “Sorry. Search unavailable at this time. Sad, sad Nullsoft.”

“The search came down because we saw that we don’t have an efficient way to distinguish between legal and illegal MP3s,” said Jay Whitney, an AOL spokesman, denying that the move comes from pressure from Time Warner Inc.

AOL is planning a merger with Time Warner, which has a music unit and is suing several MP3 file-sharing companies, including the controversial Napster Inc. search program under legal assault by the music industry for similarly failing to distinguish between legal and pirated music.