Elon Musk sues OpenAI and CEO Sam Altman for "stark betrayal of the founding agreement" and opting to go the for-profit way

Elon Musk
(Image credit: Tesla)

What you need to know

  • Elon Musk recently filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and Sam Altman for abandoning its initial mission and vision, which included delivering AI advances and technology to people for free.
  • Musk claims that OpenAI is using its GPT-4 model to generate profit for itself and other partners like Microsoft rather than using it to benefit humanity.
  • The billionaire wants OpenAI to share its designs for its latest model with the public, further stating that its reason for keeping this information a secret is “primarily driven by commercial considerations, not safety.”
  • Elon Musk refers to OpenAI's GPT-4 model as “a de facto Microsoft proprietary algorithm.”

It seems virtually impossible to demystify OpenAI from Sam Altman right now. As previously echoed by some of ChatGPT maker's staffers when the board of directors spontaneously decided to fire and later rehire the company's CEO, "OpenAI is nothing without its people."

In the past few months, OpenAI has found itself in the corridors of justice, battling several legal battles, including The New York Times intellectual copyright infringement lawsuit. The company found itself between a rock and a hard place again this week when AlterNet, The Intercept, and Raw Story filed separate lawsuits. The entities indicated that ChatGPT generated content based on their original work without attribution.

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Things don't seem to be slowing down on this front. OpenAI and Sam Altman have been slapped with another lawsuit filed by Tesla CEO and X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk. However, the lawsuit has nothing to do with copyright issues. Elon filed the suit because the fast-rising company veered off its original vision and mission — to leverage generative AI to benefit humanity without making profits. 

As you might already know, Musk co-founded and is among OpenAI's early supporters. Still, he openly shared reservations towards its newly-found for-profit approach while filing the lawsuit in a court in San Francisco late Thursday.

According to Musk:

“In reality, however, OpenAI, Inc. has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft. Under its new board, it is not just developing but is actually refining an AGI to maximize profits for Microsoft, rather than for the benefit of humanity. This was a stark betrayal of the Founding Agreement."

Musk based the lawsuit on OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman's breach of the original agreement and vision they shared while reaching out to him in 2015 when the startup was getting off its feet. He added that the company is now more focused on making money and profits than ever, emphasizing Microsoft's heavy investment in AI and extended partnership with the startup

Elon Musk has openly criticized OpenAI's complicated relationship in the past, especially after stepping down from the company's board in 2018. He's arguably one of the startup's most prominent investors, with contributions of over $44 million between 2016 and 2020 to facilitate its advances. Musk was previously offered a stake in the company but declined due to his principles and general reservations toward the company's direction. 

What does Elon Musk want?

ChatGPT and Microsoft Logo

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

In the lawsuit, Musk mentioned OpenAI's GPT-4 model, which he claims constitutes AGI. Admittedly, there's great concern about the technology's safety and privacy. The lack of regulation and guardrails to prevent it from spiraling out of control is highly alarming, too. 

RELATED: Microsoft Copilot goes rogue and features an alter ego

Through the lawsuit, Elon seeks a court ruling that will compel OpenAI to revert to its initial mission and vision, which includes making its research, findings, and technological advances easily accessible to the public. He also hopes the court order will prevent the company from using its vast resources to generate more profits for itself and other investment partners like Microsoft. 

Kevin Okemwa

Kevin Okemwa is a seasoned tech journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya with lots of experience covering the latest trends and developments in the industry. With a passion for innovation and a keen eye for detail, he has written for leading publications such as OnMSFT, MakeUseOf, and Windows Report, providing insightful analysis and breaking news on everything revolving around the Microsoft ecosystem. While AFK and not busy following the ever-emerging trends in tech, you can find him exploring the world or listening to music.

  • K Shan
    I think Elon is still bitter that his Twitter AI was making fun of him until he shut it down.
  • fdruid
    This is still about money and embarassing pride.
    If he's so smart why doesn't he shut up.
  • naddy69
    This is absurd. You can't sue a company because it is making profits. Would you like me to sue Tesla because you are not giving cars away to "benefit humanity"?
  • jlzimmerman
    naddy69 said:
    This is absurd. You can't sue a company because it is making profits. Would you like me to sue Tesla because you are not giving cars away to "benefit humanity"?
    You can sue anybody for anything. It doesn't mean it's going to go anywhere. I'm sure he's been advized that it's an exersize in futility, but it gives the situation free news coverage and people talking, which we are.

    There is also a goal to help keep AI factual and not contribute to misinformation which has been rampant with news and social media, paid for by industries such as big pharm and oil.....although it remains to be seen if Elon is such a good champion for the movement.