A lawsuit against Microsoft was filed back in 2020 by O’Donnell/Salvatori Inc. (ODS). Marty O’ Donnell and Mike Salvatori, musical composers behind the legendary Halo franchise’s first three video game soundtracks, are suing due to alleged money owed. In a recent phone interview and web article with the pair, Eurogamer detailed the situation.
See the videos below to hear O’Donnell explain the beginnings of Halo’s theme song and see the music’s debut in Halo’s first trailer back 1999.
Despite having received payment for their work via royalties over the years, the success of the franchise did not seem to match up with what the composers were being paid. Without accounting information explaining units sold and deals made, “We started getting kind of suspicious because we were like, ‘I think the Halo 2 soundtrack really sold a lot, but we don’t have any numbers that show how many units were sold.’ How many digital downloads happened on Amazon or YouTube or iTunes? We have no numbers. And then the cheque we would get seemed like, okay, it doesn’t seem like Microsoft is really making much money. So we would say, ‘Could you guys tell us what the numbers are?’ And then they just wouldn’t. But sure enough, four months later, you would get another little cheque, and just, ‘Here’s your amount.’ But it wasn’t connected to anything”.
Aside from recurrent use of old IPs and the associated music, ODS was also concerned about new uses of their licensed work. O’Donnell went on to say, “It just just seemed to us like, well, wait a minute, what about Halo 1 Anniversary? You guys did a whole new soundtrack. Then you did a whole new compilation. How much did you make on that? And what happened when you did the anime version? And these other films that you did, which are ancillary? They’re not the game. They’re ancillary to the game. They did tons of different films that had the music in it. And video projects and stuff. And we never saw any accounting about that”. To clarify, O’Donnell stated that the lawsuit is,
Currently about working out exaclty how much money is potentially owed before settling on a dollar amount for damages. It is not, O’Donnell insisted, a claim of ownership over the Halo music.
There are recent bouts of ODS’ recognizable music being used without recognition or compensation. In 2021, Halo Infinite the video game was released and as far as O’Donnell knows, “They’re re-recording all the music…and as far as I can tell, they’re not even crediting us”. Then in the last few weeks, Paramount Plus unveiled a video which promoted not only the streaming service and its current content, but also the coming Halo television series.
That hum and chant you hear is of course a portion of the music-centered in this lawsuit. Per the United States District Court Western District of Washington At Seattle, “ODS brought six causes of action against Microsoft: (1) breach of contract; (2) breach of fiduciary duty to develop the royalty income in a joint venture; (3) breach of duty to act in good faith and fair dealing; (4) failure to provide an accounting partnership; (5) unjust enrichment; and (6) tortious interference”. O’Donnell and Salvatori, “felt pretty disrespected,” due to Paramount’s recent video which prompted them to,
instruct their lawyers to explore the possibility of securing an injunction to block the TV show’s release.
Both sides of this dispute are scheduled to meet later in the year to set dates for court. According to Eurogamer, Microsoft did not wish to speak on the matter when asked.