Original Halo Music Composers Sue Microsoft Over Unpaid Royalties

In short: The creators of the original music used on Bungie-developed Halo games are suing Microsoft for unpaid royalties dating back to the original game’s release. If the two parties fail to reach an agreement, the case can be taken to court, but even worse, the Halo TV show can be canceled with a preliminary injunction.

Marty O’Donnell and Mike Salvatori are the minds behind Halo’s iconic soundtrack, including the “monk” vocals and “der der der” chorus. Their work is well known in the Halo community and has been used in various Halo products. However, composers to assert Microsoft is abusing this by not paying the royalties due to them for 20 years.

The two composers claim that Bungie licensed the music from the first three Halo games. However, the Redmont-based company acquired the studio in 2001. At the time, O’Donnell was still Bungie’s audio director, while Salvatori worked for the developer as an independent contractor, working for O’Donnell Salvatori Inc. (Salvatori also worked there).

Composers attempted to discuss the matter with Microsoft before formally indicting the company. On the one hand, Microsoft claims that the music team created the Halo music under a custom labor contract, which makes the tech giant the author of the work under the eyes of the law. . On the other hand, the composers stated that it was still a licensing agreement.

Despite the lawsuit, O’Donnell and Salvatori do not attempt to claim credit for the piece of music. Instead, they accuse Microsoft of failing to pay 20 years of royalties. In summary, they accuse the tech giant of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty to develop royalty income in a joint venture, breach of duty to act in good faith and fair dealing, failure to provide an accounting partnership, unjust enrichment, and tortious interference.

The two sides have mediation scheduled for next week, where they will try to reach an agreement. If they fail, the case could be taken to court.

Additionally, the composers plan to instruct attorneys to explore the possibility of blocking the start of the Halo TV show via a preliminary injunction. The 10-episode series, slated to debut on Paramount+ on March 24, could be delayed or canceled.

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