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August 31, 1989|ALEENE MacMINN | Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press

Producer Richard Feiner has won the right from a federal appeals court to continue his claim on the television rights to 27 silent films by the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy that were remade into 120 short films. Feiner's claim originally had been dismissed by a federal judge, who ruled that his license with Hal Roach Studios to use the films expired in 1986. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week ruled 3-0 that Feiner should be allowed to challenge the validity of Roach's copyrights on the films, which allow the studio to prevent others from using the films. The films by comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy date from the 1920s and 1930s. Lawyers for Feiner said he obtained licenses from the Roach Studios in 1966 to a group of silent films that had defects making them difficult to use, and reworked them into 120 shorts, which he called "Laughtoons," with new editing and soundtracks. The films were marketed to television for millions of dollars over the next 15 years, but have been tied up for most of the 1980s in suits by Roach, said Michael Robbins, a lawyer for Feiner.

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