Robert J. Labate is an attorney in Holland & Knight's San Francisco and Los Angeles offices. He is co-chair of the firm's national Entertainment Law practice and a member of the national Bankruptcy, Restructuring and Creditors' Rights Group. Mr. Labate assists major media companies, performers and production companies with copyright, licensing, financing, content acquisition, production, digital distribution and music issues. He also advises media and entertainment clients regarding advertising, sponsorship and talent agreements as well as use of social media and websites.

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." 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 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 firm's Litigation Section.

Recent engagements in connection with Bankruptcy, Restructuring and Creditors' Rights Practice include:

  • Represented an indenture trustee for $100 million in California pollution control bonds in which trustee also serves as a member of the Unsecured Creditors Committee for the PG&E case pending in the Northern District of California
  • Represented a leading Chinese aircraft financing state-owned enterprise (SOE) and its Irish affiliate in an adversary proceeding filed by the trustee that is pending in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California
  • Represented an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) employer and individual executives in negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which resulted in entry of a consent decree resolving $1.2 billion in environmental claims in case filed in the Western District of Missouri and represented the first multisite resolution of Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) claims, outside of bankruptcy, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Represented the Chinese-owned purchaser of substantially all assets and operations, pursuant to Bankruptcy Code 363, of a solar panel manufacturer and distributor in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California
  • Represented the corporate holder of $500 million in environmental remediation claims and led extensive negotiations with a global coal company and the EPA to settle claims against the company and its subsidiary
  • Represented a leading publisher of continuing medical education articles and course materials in a discharge and dischargeability action brought against a copyright infringer who sought bankruptcy protection in the Southern District of Indiana
  • Represented an Alaskan Indian Nation in resolving, outside of bankruptcy, liquidation of entity claims made against a tribal-owned entity in connection with government contracts
  • 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
  • Represented the 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

Recent engagements in connection with the Chicago Entertainment and Sports Law Team include:

Copyright Infringement, Defamation and Right of Publicity Litigation

  • Represented 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
  • Assisted an international beverage company against claims of infringement by copyright owners of music used by the company in YouTube promotions
  • Represented 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
  • Assisted 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

  • Assisted a major Canadian media company with licensing of substantially all of its kids' programming content to a leading U.S. Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) provider and provided analysis of potential licensing, royalty payment and infringement issues
  • 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
  • Represented 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
  • Negotiated host agreement for new television series premiering on DirectTV

Advertising, Sponsorship, Celebrity Endorsement and Promotional Agreements

  • Represent international footwear and sportswear company in connection with sponsorship, product integration, product collaboration and advertising agreements for major 2020 basketball event held in New York City; separately, represent same company in connection with sponsorship of unscripted sneaker design competition series for distribution on YouTube channel
  • Represent national cookware manufacturer with licensing of intellectual property (IP) and publicity rights from world-famous chef for exclusive use with all North American sale and distribution of cookware and appliances
  • Assisted 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 Super Bowl TV commercial broadcast together with on-going advertising campaigns via television, social media, internet, billboards and in-airport displays
  • Represented 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
  • Represented a national hotel chain in connection with a range of marketing, endorsement, sponsorship, master media buying and social media agreements
  • Prepared 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
  • Assisted a celebrity author and host of an interview program in connection with an endorsement and promotional services agreement with an international electronics company
  • Represented 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


  • Represent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame composer, musician and performer in music licensing and for Broadway play production
  • 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
  • Represented international singer and performer in connection with documentary following series of international concerts for broadcast premiere on the Fox network and assisted with performer's music video released in connection with her recent album release


  • Negotiated worldwide publishing rights for music celebrity's book to be published in the U.S. in late 2020 and worldwide in 2021
  • Negotiated worldwide graphic novel publishing rights for celebrity client for publication in 2021
  • Assisted celebrity author and host of television and podcast programs with publishing agreement for most recent, best-selling book
  • Negotiated publishing agreement for prestigious Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
  • Assisted international financial professional association with publishing agreement for its proposed journal
  • Assisted writer, political commentator and television personality with most recent publishing agreement for her new book

Feature Film and Media Projects

  • Provided analysis of royalty obligations in connection with royalty obligations resulting from 10-year licensing of catalogue of 40 films to leading Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) provider
  • Served as production counsel and over-the-top (OTT) distribution counsel to 2018 documentary which was nominated for Academy Award for Best Documentary Film
  • Served as finance and production counsel for the documentary film, "Life Itself," directed by Steve James, based on the memoir of late film critic Roger Ebert; the film was nominated for a 2016 Emmy Award
  • Served as production, finance and distribution counsel for the documentary film, "Abacus: Small Enough to Jail," 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
  • Served as outside counsel to Kartemquin Films, a leading producer of documentary films in connection with ongoing film development production and distribution of six feature film projects
  • Assisted producer of several film projects for distribution on major Spanish-language television networks in the U.S., Mexico and Latin America
  • Represented 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
  • Represented 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, 2007-2023; Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law, 2018-2023
  • Illinois Super Lawyers magazine, 2007-2018, 2022
  • The Best Lawyers in America guide, Chicago Entertainment Law - Motion Pictures and Television Lawyer of the Year, 2021
  • Holland & Knight Pro Bono All-Star, 2021
  • 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, 2003-2024
  • Corporate Counsel Edition, Super Lawyers magazine, November 2009
  • Top Bankruptcy Lawyer, The Deal, 2007
  • Chicago Law Bulletin Leading Lawyer


Speaking Engagements