Former Bungie composer Marty O’Donnell has asked people to “destroy” Destiny assets he made available without permission.
In a message published on his YouTube channel and Twitter page, O’Donnell read out a prepared statement that will likely fall on deaf ears:
“I do not have, and have not had since at least April 2014, the legal authority to possess or distribute non-commercially available material related to Destiny or Music of the Spheres (including material I composed or created while working for Bungie),” O’Donnell said.
“This material is owned by Bungie. If you posted any of these assets on a website or other publicly available platform, you should remove the content immediately. If you have copies of these assets, you should refrain from sharing and destroy any copies of them.
“This request does not apply to any Destiny or Music of the Spheres material that you lawfully obtained from commercially available sources.”
In September, Eurogamer revealed O’Donnell had been found in contempt of court over his use of Destiny assets – and owed Bungie tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
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.
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 read.
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.
Bungie argued all this activity amounted to a contempt of court and a violation of the 2015 injunction.
In court documents reviewed by Eurogamer dated May 2021, O’Donnell’s lawyers claimed his “conduct was tacitly approved by Bungie”, insisting the materials he used were given to him by Bungie, were publicly available, and “constitutes fair use under the federal Copyright Act”. O’Donnell’s lawyers argued his use of the materials was “transformative” because he used the score as a “teaching tool” and interposed words and instructions over the music. The presentations are not Music of the Spheres, his lawyers argued, but of “precursors”.
“As the Court can surmise, this was a bad breakup between Bungie and Mr. O’Donnell,” O’Donnell’s lawyers concluded in their response.
“As in many breakups, Mr. O’Donnell gave back all the materials (CDs, mugs, etc.) he thought belonged to Bungie in full compliance with the Order. Bungie took its time, looked through the materials, and gave back the materials it did not want to keep (literally, CDs of music). Mr. O’Donnell has since moved on with his life.
“To the extent he is using any materials, he is using those that predate Music of the Spheres or that he received back from Bungie or that are publicly available – to teach and educate other young composers. But Bungie simply can’t let go of the relationship. Bungie insists on dragging Mr. O’Donnell back to Court for sanctions on untenable grounds. The Court should reject Bungie’s desperate attempts to entangle Mr. O’Donnell and allow this matter to come to its natural and final end.”
However, the court agreed with Bungie, and on 12th July, judge Regina Cahan of the Superior Court of Washington King County ruled in Bungie’s favour.
The court 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 was 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 read.
Clearly, O’Donnell has now finally complied with that particular point of order – although I can’t see anyone actually complying with his request.