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Former Bungie composer Marty O’Donnell found in contempt of court over use of Destiny assets

Composer Marty O’Donnell has been found in contempt of court over his use of Destiny assets and now owes Bungie tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, Eurogamer can reveal.

In April this year, Bungie served the celebrated composer behind the original Halo music with contempt of court papers over videos related to Destiny that were uploaded to O’Donnell’s YouTube channel and other platforms.

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Marty O’Donnell.

Some of these videos were early musical sketches of what became Music of the Spheres, the much-loved musical foundation for 2014’s Destiny.

The contempt of court claim relates to the terms of a prior lawsuit between Bungie and O’Donnell over his acrimonious exit from the company – a lawsuit O’Donnell eventually won.

Bungie said O’Donnell, who was Bungie’s veteran audio director until he was fired in April 2014, was ordered to return all material related to Music of the Spheres and Destiny, and was blocked from sharing or performing it as part of a 2015 injunction.

Bungie said “all material” includes not just Music of the Spheres in their final state, but all versions, components and variations of the tracks – that is, all material involved in any way in the creation of Music of the Spheres and Destiny.

Fast forward to 2019, when O’Donnell began uploading videos and other materials relating to Music of the Spheres and Destiny to his YouTube channel, as well as Bandcamp.

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

Bungie also noted O’Donnell posted tracks and an album titled “Sketches for MotS” to Bandcamp, where users were able to pay him a fee if they wanted to.

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Bungie argued all this activity amounted to a contempt of court and a violation of the 2015 injunction. The court agreed, and on 12th July, judge Regina Cahan of the Superior Court of Washington King County ruled in Bungie’s favour:

“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.”

A representative of Bungie said the company is unable to comment on ongoing litigation, but pointed to the court’s ruling, above. O’Donnell declined to comment when contacted by Eurogamer.

The court has now imposed upon O’Donnell a number of sanctions, including a third-party forensic examination of his electronic devices in order to delete any assets relating to Destiny or Music of the Spheres.

O’Donnell must also remove all the relevant material from the internet (he’s already done this, if you were wondering where that all went from his YouTube channel). O’Donnell must also write to any third-party he is aware of who also posted the material to ask them to remove it.

O’Donnell is also ordered to “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 possessor 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,” the court order reads.

O’Donnell has so far not done this.

O’Donnell must also pay Bungie all money of any kind he received from the sale of related materials uploaded to Bandcamp. And O’Donnell is ordered to pay Bungie’s “reasonable costs” associated with the contempt proceeding, including attorney’s fees, as well as fees associated with the third-party examination of his electronic devices.

These fees are currently in dispute, with O’Donnell’s representatives arguing the near $100,000 Bungie has called for is unreasonable.

O’Donnell’s dispute with Bungie has remained quiet until now, although fans had suspected something was up after his YouTube channel was scrubbed of Destiny-related videos, and he deleted his Twitter account.

The Twitter account was later restored, and on 3rd June, in a now deleted tweet, O’Donnell said: “I’m thinking about retiring from the games industry for good.” O’Donnell then signalled (in another deleted tweet) that he may be forced to shut down his YouTube channel. When asked why, O’Donnell replied: “Ask Pete Parsons.” (Parsons is the CEO of Bungie.) This tweet was also later deleted.

Then, on 4th June, O’Donnell tweeted to ask his followers to consider buying the soundtrack to Golem, the 2019 PlayStation VR game he worked on at his new studio, Highwire Games. “The money will help with my huge legal bills,” he said. “Thank you.” This tweet remains online.

Highwire Games is currently working on controversial Iraq war game Six Days in Fallujah.

O’Donnell’s exit from Bungie was thought resolved in 2015, but six years later the fallout from the high-profile split rumbles on.

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