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.

Mr. Labate was an adjunct faculty member at DePaul University College of Law between 2007 and 2014, when he taught "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. From 1998 to 2004, Mr. Labate was a regular legal contributor to a Chicago-based arts journal named PerformInk, for which he wrote more than 50 articles about various entertainment, media and copyright law topics of interest to the creative community.

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.

Mr. Labate's recent engagements include:

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

  • representing 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 Holland & Knight's Chicago Team filed, against the plaintiff, a motion to dismiss and for sanctions for discovery violations and for failure to comply with court orders
  • representing an international beverage company against claims of infringement by copyright owners of music used by the company in YouTube promotions
  • representing 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
  • representing 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

  • preparing and negotiating production, host and executive producer agreements for new celebrity-chef television series to air on A+E
  • representing 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
  • representing a celebrity chef on all media activities including participation in "Iron Chef Gauntlet" series premiering on Food Network
  • negotiating a host agreement for new television series premiering on DirectTV


  • creating a new recording company to sign and break indie music artists
  • being appointed as heirs representative in connection with negotiation of six major marketing, streaming, music publishing and catalogue distribution agreements for an international artist who died in 2016
  • representing an international singer and performer in connection with a documentary following a series of international concerts for a broadcast premiere on the Fox network and assisting with the performer's music video released in connection with her recent album release

Advertising, Celebrity Endorsement and Promotional Agreements

  • representing 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 ongoing advertising campaigns in 2017 via television, social media, internet, billboards and in-airport displays
  • representing 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
  • representing a national hotel chain in connection with a range of marketing, endorsement, sponsorship, master media buying and social media agreements
  • preparing sections of a 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
  • representing a celebrity author and host of an interview program in connection with an endorsement and promotional services agreement with an international electronics company
  • representing a celebrity chef in connection with the financing and opening of her new restaurant that recently received recognition as a Top 10 best new restaurant from a national food magazine and a national style magazine

Feature Film and Media Projects

  • representing two documentary films nominated for 2018 Academy awards including "Abacus: Small Enough to Jail" – production, finance and distribution counsel for a documentary film from director Steve James that follows the criminal trial of the 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
  • "Life Itself" – Finance and production counsel for this documentary film directed by Steve James, based on the memoir of late film critic Roger Ebert; the film was nominated for a 2016 Emmy Award
  • Kartemquin Films – Outside counsel to a leading producer of documentary films in connection with ongoing film development production and distribution of six feature film projects


  • 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