Martin O'Donnell wins case against Bungie & Activision

Martin O'Donnell wins case against Bungie & Activision

Postby benjiman0 » Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:02 am

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As a pre-amble to this I've been following this story ever since Martin was dismissed by Bungie with the orders coming from Activision, this man is the sole reason I regard Halo 2 as my most favourited game I've ever had the pleasure of owning, and still own to this date, his soundtrack in the Halo series is unmatched by few in the audio-gaming world, so when I heard he was the lead composer for Destiny's soundtrack... I got excited.
However it was not to be.
DISCLAIMER: This is going to be a rather in depth article, should you not want to hear the backstory to this article, a summary is provided at the end of this thread.

Mid-April 2010:
Bungie and Activision shake hands on creating a 5 part series, which is what we all know as Destiny in today's world. Pete Parsons, the Chief operating officer of Bungie at the time requested that Martin O'Donnell write the soundtrack for the game, it was then agreed with Activision that O'Donnell sound write all the soundtracks for each Destiny game in one block, in turn O'Donnell worked with Paul McCartney (if you don't know who he is, you live under a rock, a cold, dark rock) to produce not 5 but 8 installments for the Destiny series.

Early 2013:
O'Donnell sets out to write the installments along with McCartney. This also included O'Donnell becoming an integral part of the audio team of whom were credited for the sound design in Destiny. The music composed was dubbed the 'Music of the Spheres', and was entirely the work of O'Donnell and McCartney, it was O'Donnell that went to the rest of the audio team to help them in development.

Later that same year:
According to O'Donnell, Activision had little enthusiasm towards releasing the 'Music of the Spheres' as a standalone work, and promotion of it subsequently was ruled out. O’Donnell became increasingly frustrated that Bungie was making insufficient effort to release it. As E3 was dawning, and during preparations for E3 2013, Bungie was getting ready to demo the game for the first time. Activision was going to play the game music ('Music of the Spheres') with the E3 trailer, but shortly before E3, Activision took over the trailer and supplied its own music, rather than the 'Music of the Spheres' audio created by O'Donnell specifically for E3 and said game trailer.

To say the least, O'Donnell wasn't happy, and rightfully so, the CEO of Bungie at the time agreed with O'Donnell and sent a 'veto' letter to Activision, to which they dismissed it more than requests for new features in a Call of Duty video-game. This is where things begin to tumble.

O’Donnell tweeted that Activision, not Bungie, had composed the trailer music. He also threatened Bungie employees in an attempt to keep the trailer from being posted online and interrupted press briefings. In the court statements O’Donnell claimed he was preserving Bungie’s “creative process, artistic integrity, and reputation, keeping faith with fans, and protecting Bungie and its intellectual property from Activision’s encroachment into artistic decisions.” According to O’Donnell’s view, the “Band of Brothers” ethos that had inspired the group’s earlier work was being damaged by the Activision relationship. In response at the time Bungie management thought that his conduct “hurt the Bungie team, hurt the game, drove a negative online discussion, and violated Ryan’s instructions.” They also believed that O’Donnell was elevating his interest in publishing 'Music of the Spheres' over the best interests of the company. Activision advised Bungie that O’Donnell’s conduct may constitute a breach of the parties’ contract.

The then CEO of Bungie made the recommendation to the board that O'Donnell be fired, however the board disagreed, and instead the way he acted was criticised in his performance review. O'Donnell responded to the claims by asking Bungie and Activision to provide substantial evidence that his actions or inactions was correlated to permanent damage to the Bungie-Activision relationship, the audio team, or ultimate game sales.

It was at this time (around August-September) that Destiny had a massive storyline revision, and as such was the leading cause for the first delay in regards to the release date, which was now set as March 2014. O’Donnell returned to work after a vacation, but the audio team and his supervisor did not consider him to be fully engaged in his work. When Bungie management heard of O'Donnell's lack of engagement with the company, they set in motion the dismissal of O’Donnell.

Where shit goes down:
[O’Donnell’s original stock ownership agreement held that O’Donnell would give up his unvested founders’ shares if he left voluntarily (ie: if he left the company). Bungie dismissed O’Donnell without cause on April 11, 2014. The company chose not to pay him for his accrued but unused vacation time, unless he waived his equity interest hence O’Donnell sued. He won the right to get his vacation pay in a separate case.

Bungie also took legal action to recover O’Donnell’s shares. “The forfeiture effectively stripped O’Donnell of all rights that he would have enjoyed as a holder of shares,” according to the arbitrator that dealt with this case.

Late 2013:
Bungie began searching for musical publishing partners for 'Music of the Spheres'. During that process, there was evidence given that Bungie management believed that withholding release of 'Music of the Spheres' gave them leverage over O’Donnell. Bungie now claims the non-release was due to legal obligation, and by suggestions of the companies lawyers. During multiple events, Bungie played parts of the music that O’Donnell created.

Mid 2014:
Bungie was now concerned that O’Donnell had copies of the music in the form of CDs and that he was going to release it himself into the public domain. So a deal was made that O'Donnell was to return any Bungie property that was not gifted to him and the CD copies of 'Music of the Spheres'. In turn Bungie was forced to restore O'Donnell's rights and shares in the company that were with-held from him. Bungie lawyers rejected under the impression that if O’Donnell’s shares were restored, he would be a “bothersome presence at board meetings and in the company,” however the judge over-ruled it and restored O'Donnell's rights with Bungie.

The judge found that Bungie violated its contract with O’Donnell when it fired him and forced him to surrender all of his stock and forego participation in the company’s profit participation plan.

In the final ruling, the judge said that O’Donnell is entitled to, at his choice, the 192,187.5 shares of Bungie common stock, the cash equivalent of 20 percent of his referred and common stock valued as of April 11, 2014, or the cash equivalent of 50 percent of his vested common stock valued as of July 2, 2014. Essentially this was everything O'Donnell wanted from the company.

So what does this ultimately mean?
Payday.


Martin received $95,000 in unpaid wages alone, and another $142,000 for his share in work with development on the audio team, and as the music composer for Destiny. Although the value of Bungie's stock is unknown, it is thought to be worth a lot of money.

But here's the real kick in the dick. The judge also found that O’Donnell demonstrated proof that he was one of seven founders of Bungie (which was previously named Arete Seven LLC) and that the company gave him 1.27 million shares of class B shares in October 2007. Those shares were converted into 336,375 shares of Bungie’s Series B-1 Preferred Stock in 2010, when Activision started making hints about Destiny. He was also issued 48,000 shares of Bungie’s common stock. And in December 2010, O’Donnell signed a contract extending his employment through 2020. As each installment of Destiny was published, O’Donnell received a share. The judge finalised that due to his work in creating all 8 installments of music for the Destiny series, whether they use the music or not, he is to receive shares upon release of each of the 5 Destiny games.

That's a horrendously stupid amount of money that will roll on into his bank account quite nicely.

Summary for those who chose not to read the wall of text (I don't really blame you):
    O'Donnell gets dismissed without cause, pay and forced to surrender his shares with Bungie after a disagreement in development of Destiny and in regards to his work with the audio team.
    O'Donnell then sues Bungie, with affiliation to Activision for the unpaid wages, unpaid leave, and for the surrender of his shares as it violates O'Donnell's and Bungie's contracts.
    O'Donnell receives large amounts of money in wages, leave and has his shares re-instated with the company.
    Bungie and Activision are now legally obliged to pay O'Donnell for each of the first five games in the Destiny series, due to O'Donnell writing all soundtracks by recommendation of Bungie.
    Martin O'Donnell can literally middle finger Bungie and Activision as much as he wants, and they have to pay him.

- Polygon (court case), Polygon (termination of O'Donnell), Engadget, Venturebeat (court case), Venturebeat (unpaid wages), Engadget (Image Source, Martin O'Donnell), Open Letter (Image Source, Bungie & Activision)
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Re: Martin O'Donnell wins case against Bungie & Activision

Postby Musashi1596 » Wed Sep 16, 2015 12:33 pm

Eesh, sounds pretty messy. Nice work. Glad he managed to get what was owed to him.
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Re: Martin O'Donnell wins case against Bungie & Activision

Postby benjiman0 » Thu Sep 17, 2015 4:45 am

Musashi1596 wrote:Eesh, sounds pretty messy. Nice work. Glad he managed to get what was owed to him.

It got way out of hand on both sides, but when it comes down to the initial issue that sparked everything, Activision fucked the whole situation up. I didn't like them all that much initially, in fact I preferred Infinity Ward and what they stood for in the Call of Duty series over Activision, but this, this was a nail in the coffin so large, no one could survive it.
They fucked with my gaming world for the last time.

Fuck them.
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