Halo Music Lawsuit Seeking To Block Halo TV Show

Published: February 11, 2022 9:19 AM /


Master Chief and Weapon in Halo Infinite

Original Halo composers Mike Salvatori and Marty O'Donnell are bringing a Halo music lawsuit against Microsoft over unpaid royalties dating back to the original game's release. The two have also instructed their lawyers to investigate the possibility of blocking the Halo TV show with the lawsuit.

What is this Halo music lawsuit all about, and how could it block the Halo TV show?

According to a Eurogamer report, Salvatori and O'Donnell say Microsoft still owes them royalties for composition work they did on the Halo series. The missed royalty payments supposedly date back as far as 20 years, when Halo: Combat Evolved originally launched for Xbox. As part of this lawsuit, the two Halo composers have also told their lawyers to investigate a preliminary injunction that could block the upcoming Halo TV series from launching. Since the show appears to use compositions created by O'Donnell and Salvatori, they believe they're entitled to block its release until their dispute with Microsoft is resolved.

Master Chief in the upcoming Halo TV series, which could be blocked by a Halo music lawsuit
Marty O'Donnell and Mike Salvatori have asked their lawyers to block the upcoming Halo TV show over their royalty lawsuit.

O'Donnell has been involved in court drama relating to his work before. In September last year, he was found in contempt of court after uploading music related to the Destiny series, on which he's also worked. O'Donnell was asked to hand over everything he had relating to Destiny after an acrimonious lawsuit, but evidently he didn't do so then. However, this time, the suit includes both O'Donnell and his partner Mike Salvatori, both of whom are claiming they're owed unpaid royalties by Microsoft. The suit includes a number of charges, including breach of contract and "tortious interference", which involves an accusation that a party intentionally convinced another to breach a contract.

The details are pretty involved, but suffice it to say O'Donnell says he and Salvatori composed music for Halo on a license basis, not a work-for-hire basis. This means they held the rights to the music and were licensing it to Microsoft, and as part of that deal, the pair say they should have received royalties when soundtracks were sold. They continued to receive royalties from Microsoft after leaving the company, but the numbers seemed wrong and didn't seem to include sales from other ancillary Halo media, a percentage of which O'Donnell and Salvatori say they were also owed. O'Donnell says this isn't a claim over the ownership of Halo's music, but rather a claim trying to figure out how much money he and Salvatori are owed. The pair also say they weren't credited on Halo Infinite, which remixes a lot of the music they composed for the series, nor did they receive any royalties for that music, even though it's ostensibly based on their compositions. The Halo TV show trailer angered both Salvatori and O'Donnell further; O'Donnell says they felt "pretty disrespected" when they saw it.

What's next for this Halo music lawsuit?

The lawsuit was originally filed in Washington back in 2020. Depositions and discovery (the phase in which each team investigates the facts behind the case and speaks to relevant individuals) have been undertaken, and mediation for the suit is set to start next week. That's where a negotiator sits down with both parties and tries to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, thus saving everyone the lengthy and potentially costly headache of going through the legal system. If a decision can't be reached, however, then the case will likely end up in court.

Spartans shooting at each other in Halo Infinite
O'Donnell and Salvatori are also saying Microsoft failed to credit them for Halo Infinite's music, which is based on their compositions.

If the case does go to court, it's unlikely to cause undue panic for Microsoft; the company was rich enough to undertake the single biggest gaming acquisition ever last month, when it bought the beleaguered Activision Blizzard for a remarkable $68.7 billion. There's a good chance both parties will want to avoid the difficult process of undergoing a lawsuit, but O'Donnell has proven he's not afraid to take companies on in court, at the very least. We'll bring you more on this as soon as we get it.

How do you feel about O'Donnell and Salvatori's Halo music lawsuit? Let us know in the comments below!

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