Court holds Halo’s composer in contempt, ordered to pay Bungie almost $100,000

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Court holds Halo

In a nutshell: Bungie’s former audio director for Destiny has been found in contempt of court for continually using the game’s assets after leaving the employ of the game developer. Marty O’Donnell was caught uploading multiple music clips from Destiny to the internet in violation of a previous court order.

Eurogamer notes, the case started in 2014 when O’Donnell tweeted that he had been fired from Bungie without reason while working on the music for Destiny. For the game’s E3 trailer, Activision had replaced O’Donnell’s composition with music from another artist, and Bungie subsequently archived his music.

When O’Donnell was fired, Bungie demanded the return of “all materials” related to his work on the project, “Music of the Spheres” and Destiny. It filed also filed an injunction in 2015 preventing him from performing or sharing any of the work.

O’Donnell returned all of his finished work, but in 2019 started uploading materials related to Music of the Spheres and Destiny to YouTube and Bandcamp. Much of the material was early work on the projects and not the finished product, but Bungie said “all materials” meant everything.

“Mr. O’Donnell’s very possession of such materials proves he did not comply with the order to return ‘all material’ to Bungie,” reads Bungie’s motion for contempt.

The game studio also alleges that O’Donnell accepted money for tracks he posted on Bandcamp.

Bungie argued that O’Donnell’s actions were a flagrant violation of the injunction. The Superior Court of Washington King County agreed, ruling that O’Donnell “intentionally disobeyed” the 2015 court order.

“Mr. O’Donnell intentionally disobeyed, and is hereby held in contempt of, the September 17, 2015 order confirming and enforcing final arbitration award (the Order) entered in this Matter,” Judge Regina Cahan wrote in her ruling.

Now O’Donnell must allow a forensics team to go through his electronic devices to delete any related material. He is also ordered to take down anything he has posted and contact any third party he is aware of who might have shared the material.

“[Mr. Donnell must] post a message, the wording of which the parties agree to, on his Twitter, YouTube, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud sites/channels stating that he did not have legal authority to possess or provide material related to Music of the Spheres or Destiny and asking anyone who previously downloaded any such assets to delete them and refrain from sharing and will destroy any copies of them. Mr. O’Donnell will refrain from making any direct or indirect public comment regarding these posts, including responses to those inquiring regarding basis for such posts, and will let the message speak for itself.”

O’Donnell is further ordered to pay Bungie everything he earned from his Bootcamp postings, legal fees, and the cost of the forensic examination. All totaled, he must shell out nearly $100,000. His lawyers are contesting the amount calling it “unreasonable.”

As of this writing, O’Donnell has yet to post the court-ordered message. However, he has removed all his related YouTube videos, Bandcamp and Soundcloud tracks. He also deleted his Twitter account but later restored it. He is now asking his followers to buy the Golem soundtrack to help cover his mounting legal fees (Tweet above).

O’Donnell declined to comment on the matter, and a Bungie representative referred Eurogamer to the contempt ruling, citing that the company cannot comment on “ongoing litigation.”

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