The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) says CD sales are down 7% so far this year, and illegal Internet downloading is to blame. The RIAA, which represents most U.S. record companies, backs its claim with a study done by Peter D. Hart Research Associates.

In a nutshell, the study shows that by a two-to-one margin music lovers who say they are downloading more also say they are purchasing less. According to an RIAA press release, the research helps "decisively debunk the theory that stealing music online is somehow good for the music business."

Because the Hart research was commissioned by the RIAA, its findings must be viewed with a critical eye; its results are in direct contrast to most independent studies that indicate music downloading helps heighten interest and increases music sales.

It's difficult to pin down the exact reasons for the drop in CD sales. A Washington Post article points out, for example, that the video game industry now far outpaces the music business. That, along with other entertainment options, is "giving kids a lot of new places to spend money."

In addition, it's extremely hard to generate any sympathy for the RIAA. Instead of embracing -- and monetizing -- a new technology, it has fought music downloading every step of the way. It could have settled with Napster and made some decent money for its constituents; instead, it killed the popular download service, and now literally hundreds of others have sprung up in its place. Its own officially sanctioned download sites offer too little for too much, ensuring that the free, illegal sites will continue to proliferate.

In short, the RIAA has handled this situation badly from square one and nothing will improve for it until it embraces music downloading on a practical level, stops alienating music lovers with its litigious and arrogant attitude... and, perhaps, sees a change in top-level management.