Original Halo Composers Reportedly Sue Microsoft Over Unpaid Royalties

The composers of the iconic Halo monk chant are suing Microsoft over unpaid royalties.
The composers of the iconic Halo monk chant are suing Microsoft over unpaid royalties. / Credit to 343 Industries

Marty O'Donnell and Mike Salvatori, the creators of the iconic Halo theme music, are suing Microsoft over unpaid royalties dating back 20 years, Eurogamer reports.

Lawyers representing the two composers filed the suit to a Washington state court in June 2020. Depositions and discovery have both been undertaken, and a mediation date has been set for next week. Should the two sides fail reach an agreement, the suit may end up in court.

O'Donnell and Salvatori have also told their lawyers to explore blocking the release of the upcoming Halo TV show with a preliminary injunction.

The suit accuses Microsoft of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty to develop the royalty income in a join venture, breach of duty to act in good faith and fair dealing, failure to provide an accounting partnership, unjust enrichment, and tortious interference. O'Donnell says it aims to figure out exactly how much Microsoft owes before settling on a dollar amount for damages.

O'Donnell told Eurogamer he and Salvatori had tried to work with Microsoft to clarify what royalties were owed, but were ultimately forced to move ahead with the lawsuit.

Microsoft declined to comment on the lawsuit, and Paramount has yet to comment on the possibility of an injunction against its show.

According to O'Donnell, he and Salvatori created and licensed the Halo music to Bungie as O'Donnell Salvatori Inc. in 2000. He says that deal remained in place after Microsoft bought Bungie in 2000 ahead of Halo: Combat Evolved's launch in 2001.

After the licensing, in May 2000, O'Donnell joined Bungie as the studio's audio director. He remained a part of O'Donnell Salvatori Inc., as did Salvatori. O'Donnell says the music was still owned by O'Donnell Salvatori Inc. and licensed to Bungie.

Microsoft's counterclaim asserts the Halo music qualifies as work-for-hire, making Microsoft the author of the work.

O'Donnell left Bungie in 2014, years after it gained independence from Microsoft. He has since been found in contempt of court for his use of Destiny assets, and reportedly owes Bungie tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees — but he and Salvatori launched their lawsuit against Microsoft before that contempt of court charge.

A pretrial conference to set a date for a trial is set for May 9.