Robert J. Labate serves as co-chair of Holland & Knight's national Entertainment Law and Sports practice from two offices in California and Illinois to assist clients with their transaction and litigation goals. He works with major media companies on a variety of copyright, licensing, content acquisition, program production, financing and music issues. He also advises media and corporate clients regarding network advertising, sponsorship and talent agreements as well as use of social media and websites for marketing and promotion.

As a partner in Holland & Knight’s Bankruptcy, Restructuring and Creditors’ Rights Practice Group, Mr. Labate represents creditors and financial institutions in major restructurings and bankruptcy cases around the country, particularly with respect to the energy, technology, transportation and entertainment sectors. He also advises real estate and corporate clients with respect to issues arising in connection with restructuring, bankruptcy and receiverships.

Mr. Labate was an adjunct faculty member at DePaul University School of Law between 2007 and 2014 where he taught both “Corporate Workouts and Restructuring” as well as "The Law of Film and Television Production." His entertainment and transactional practice is recognized by Chambers USA, Best Lawyers in America and by Illinois Super Lawyers magazine. He is the author of a book titled Dangerous Lenses: A Guide to Surviving the Perils of Film and Media Law, which will be published by Lawyers for the Creative Arts in 2017. From 1998 to 2004, Mr. Labate was a regular legal contributor to a Chicago-based arts journal named PerformInk, and during that time he wrote more than 50 articles about various entertainment, media and copyright law topics of interest to the creative community.

For five years, Mr. Labate served as chair of the Holland & Knight Chicago office's Public and Charitable Service Committee, which promotes and monitors dozens of pro bono and community service representations and projects in the Chicago metropolitan community. He now supervises Public and Charitable Service activities nationwide for the Litigation Section.

Recent engagements by Mr. Labate in connection with his Bankruptcy, Restructuring and Creditors’ Rights Practice include representation of a wide range of clients:

  • With a team of Holland & Knight attorneys, prepared and submitted an amici curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Husky International Electronics, Inc. v. Ritz on behalf of six Bankruptcy Law School Professors from Columbia, University of Chicago, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Southern California; on March 1, 2016, the Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on grounds advocated by the Holland & Knight team regarding the appropriate definition of the term “actual fraud” in the context of “strong arm” powers created by the Bankruptcy Code
  • A holder of $500 million in environmental remediation claims in the Peabody Energy Corporation Chapter 11 case filed in the Eastern District of Missouri and participated in extensive negotiations with the debtor and the EPA regarding settlement of claims against Peabody and its subsidiary, Gold Fields Mining, LLC
  • The agent for post-petition debtor-in-possession financing in a number of Chapter 11 cases filed in Delaware and New York Bankruptcy Courts
  • Primary lender to producer of more than 60 television series distributed throughout the United States and Canada in connection with the producer’s bankruptcy case filed in Canada under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act
  • Acquisition of IP and licenses in AlphaMetrix Federal Receivership filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • Pre and post-petition lender in Marbles Holding, Inc. which owned and operated dozens of retail stores nationwide
  • Several Chicago-area municipalities in connection with bankruptcy cases filed in the Northern District of Illinois

Recent engagements by Mr. Labate and the Chicago Entertainment and Sports Law Team include representation of a wide range of clients:

Copyright Infringement, Lanham Act, Defamation and Right of Publicity Litigation

  • A major media company and several of its television stations in a copyright infringement action regarding photographs used on station websites; the case was dismissed by consent of the parties soon after our Chicago Team filed, against the plaintiff, a motion to dismiss and for sanctions for discovery violations and for failure to comply with court orders
  • An international beverage company against claims of infringement by copyright owners of music used by the company in YouTube promotions
  • A television station and its parent media company accused of failing to license more than 1,000 musical compositions used in four series of contest programs over a period of three years
  • The owner of three major grocery store chains and one of those grocery chains in connection with false and defamatory advertising campaign initiated by a competing supermarket chain

Media and Television – Transactional Media

  • Recently, Mr. Labate collaborated with other Media Practice Team members to develop and implement comprehensive copyright clearance programs for newsroom producers and, separately, for advertising executives at 90 television stations throughout the country; the program includes standard clearance procedures, fair-use guidance, agreements and licensing, webinars with station news directors and producers, and procedures for use of third-party materials such as images, photos and videos
  • Prepared and negotiated production, host and executive producer agreements for new celebrity-chef television series to air on A+E
  • The producer of a Top 10 iTunes podcast series in connection with licensing, distribution and rights acquisition issues together with publication of a new book based on the podcast series
  • Advised celebrity chef on all media activities including participation in “Iron Chef Gauntlet” series premiering on Food Network
  • Negotiate host agreement for new television series premiering on DirectTV


  • Appointed as heirs representative in connection with negotiation of six major marketing, streaming, music publishing and catalogue distribution agreements for international artist who died in 2016
  • International singer and performer in connection with documentary following series of international concerts for broadcast premiere on the Fox network and assist with performer’s music video released in connection with her recent album release

Advertising, Celebrity Endorsement and Promotional Agreements

  • An international airline in connection with licensing rights and acquisition agreements with a major movie studio and stars of an action/adventure motion picture, which were necessary for a promotional campaign including a 2016 Super Bowl TV commercial broadcast together with on-going advertising campaigns in 2017 via television, social media, internet, billboards and in-airport displays
  • A major cooperative with more than 2,200 stores in 60 countries in connection with endorsement and promotional services agreements with a sports celebrity and, additionally, with an advertising campaign featuring "person on the street" and employee interviews for distribution on network and cable television, new media, social media and on websites
  • A national hotel chain in connection with a range of marketing, endorsement, sponsorship, master media buying and social media agreements
  • Prepare sections of national hotel chain’s Outside Counsel Handbook concerning celebrity chef licenses and consulting agreements; celebrity endorsement agreements; termination of intellectual property licenses; and location agreements for film, television and media
  • A celebrity author and host of an interview program in connection with an endorsement and promotional services agreement with an international electronics company
  • A celebrity chef in connection with the financing and opening of her new restaurant which recently received recognition as a Top 10 best new restaurant from a national food magazine and a national style magazine


  • Assist celebrity author and host of television and podcast programs with publishing agreement for most recent, best-selling book
  • Negotiate publishing agreement for prestigious Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
  • Assist international financial professional association with publishing agreement for its proposed journal
  • Assist writer, political commentator and television personality with most recent publishing agreement for her new book

Feature Film and Media Projects

  • “Life Itself” – Finance and production counsel for this document film directed by Steve James, based on the memoir of late film critic Roger Ebert; the film was nominated for a 2016 Emmy Award
  • “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” – Production, finance and distribution counsel for documentary film from director Steve James which follows the criminal trial of Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings Bank of Chinatown, New York, who were accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. and who were acquitted on all 140 counts
  • Kartemquin Films – Outside counsel to leading producer of documentary films in connection with ongoing film development production and distribution of six feature film projects
  • Assist producer of several film projects for distribution on major Spanish-language television networks in the U.S., Mexico and Latin America
  • National documentary film producer in connection with negotiating television broadcast rights for and financing of a feature documentary film and a documentary television series; the film was nominated for a 2016 Emmy Award and the television series was a recipient of the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award for broadcast excellence
  • A producer of digital media and advertising company in connection with development and licensing of “Hall of Fame” material for use with programming for a web portal designed for Spanish-speaking sports fans in the U.S. and Latin America


  • Case Western Reserve University School of Law, J.D.
  • Yale College, B.A., History
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • California
  • Illinois
  • New Mexico
Court Admissions
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Lawyers for the Creative Arts, Board of Directors
  • Chicago Bar Association, Chair, Media and Entertainment Committee 2007-2008
  • Chicago Bar Association, Nominating Committee, 2008
  • American Bankruptcy Institute
  • American Bar Association, Litigation Section, Entertainment and Sports Industry Committee, Member
Honors & Awards
  • The Best Lawyers in America guide, Entertainment Law - Motion Pictures and Television, 2007-2020; Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law, 2018-2020
  • Illinois Super Lawyers magazine, 2007-2018
  • New City Film 50: Chicago’s Screen Gems, 2015
  • Holland & Knight Public and Charitable Service All-Star, 2014
  • Chambers USA – America's Leading Business Lawyers guide, Media & Entertainment: Transactional, 2009-2019
  • Corporate Counsel Edition, Super Lawyers magazine, November 2009
  • Top Bankruptcy Lawyer, The Deal, 2007
  • Chicago Law Bulletin Leading Lawyer


Speaking Engagements