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Marty O’Donnell, ex-Bungie composer, in legal trouble for sharing his music

Marty O’Donnell composed the iconic soundtrack to Bungie’s Destiny. But, after losing the rights to his work in 2015, he has been fined for refusing to comply with a court order.

Destiny and Halo composer Marty O’Donnell is responsible for one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time. Despite this his career has been shrouded in controversy, having spent the last six years in and out of court with his former employer Bungie.

In 2015, not long after he was fired (without cause he claimed), O’Donnell was ordered to return all of the material he worked on while employed by the American developer. He was also, rather critically, ordered to stop using, sharing, and profiting from this material.

destiny composer
Image: Destiny 2 / Bungie

The work which this order covered included Music of the Spheres, a collection of sketches that provided the inspiration for the official Destiny soundtrack.

It’s an enormously sad thing to see an artist’s work taken away from them, even when they have legally signed away the rights to a third party. These contracts are usually signed when things are rosy, often under the naïve pretense that the situation couldn’t possibly turn sour.

Yet sour it has. Despite the court order, the composer continued to post his works on various online forums and websites – even developing an infamous reputation on Reddit for his refusal to comply with posting guidelines. Essentially, Marty O’Donnell just doesn’t seem to appreciate being told what to do.

Unfortunately for him, that can have dire and expensive consequences. Judge Regina Cahan ruled as follows:

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.

The judgement also stated that Marty O’Donnell must pay roughly $100,000 USD in damages to Bungie. This sum reportedly takes into account Bungie’s legal costs and the amount of money O’Donnell has made illegally through the continued use of his compositions.

O’Donnell’s legal team are seeking the penalty to be reduced, but not attempting to argue against the charges themselves. It’s a sad state of affairs and we hope this matter will finally be put to rest soon.