In a closely watched battle over the right to anonymity in Internet postings, Ballard Spahr attorney Daniel Tobin urged the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to order the unmasking of a commenter who allegedly defamed a corporation on a trade group Web site.

The legal battle, now in its sixth year, has pitted Tobin’s client—Arlington, Va.-based defense contractor Solers Inc.—against the Software & Information Industry Association, a Washington-based trade group trying to shield the commenter’s identity.

Lawyers for SIIA argued that Solers cannot prove defamation because it cannot show any economic harm. But Mr. Tobin told the three-judge panel that Solers in fact spent more than $7,000 responding to the defamatory comment, and that whether it was $7,000 or $7 million, any evidence of financial harm should be enough, because Solers’ reputation “has been besmirched.”

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