After a lengthy legal fight, a court-appointed arbitrator has ruled in favor of ex-Bungie composer Martin O’Donnell. As a result, Bungie must restore O’Donnell’s stock holdings, the value which remains unknown since Bungie isn’t a publicly traded company, and continue to pay what’s owed to the composer as part of the company’s profit-sharing plan.
This is actually separate from an earlier case between O’Donnell and Bungie chief executive Harold Ryan, which we reported on last year. In that suit O’Donnell won his right to unpaid overtime and other benefits, amounting to around $95,000, that Bungie still owed him after they fired him.
Back in April of 2014, Matin O’Donnell was abruptly removed from his position at Bungie as audio director. Not only was O’Donnell responsible for writing music for the Bungie’s new Destiny game, including music planned for the expansions, he also worked with the audio team on sound effects and voice overs.
The court documents reveal what led to tensions between O’Donnell and Bungie before he was fired. Primarily, the disagreements started over the composer’s creative freedoms, particularly the use of the eight movement suite “Music of the Spheres” that he worked on with Paul McCartney. When Activision replaced the suite with its own in-house music for the Destiny trailer, O’Donnell began pushing back and made attempts to prevent that version of the trailer from being used. You can read more about the complex internal disputes that led to the incident in greater detail on Venturebeat.
While it’s not entirely clear how much money O’Donnell will be earning off of the profit sharing rights in the future, he has been awarded $142,500 as his profit-share from last year alone. According to the final ruling, O’Donnell has a number of choices in what form he can recover his stock, including 192,187.5 shares of Bungie common stock or cash equivalences of the stock based off of percentages of previous stock values.
While O’Donnell has won a great victory against his former employer, he sadly won’t be able to release the “Music of the Spheres” suite on his own without permission of the current copyright holders, who are unlikely to be giving it if this latest suit is any indication. In the meantime, O’Donnell has gone on to start a game company of his own called Highwire Games.