Elon Musk sues OpenAI and CEO Sam Altman over contract breach


Elon Musk sues OpenAI and CEO Sam Altman over contract breach

Elon Musk is suing Microsoft-backed OpenAI and its CEO, Sam Altman, among others, alleging they abandoned the company’s founding mission to develop artificial intelligence “for the benefit of humanity broadly.”

In a lawsuit filed Thursday with a San Francisco court, Musk’s lawyers said the tech billionaire was approached in 2015 by Altman and OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman and agreed to form a nonprofit lab that would develop artificial general intelligence for the “benefit of humanity.”

A co-founder of OpenAI in 2015, Musk stepped down from the firm’s board in 2018, four years after saying that AI is “potentially more dangerous than nukes.”

“To this day, OpenAI, Inc.’s website continues to profess that its charter is to ensure that AGI benefits all of humanity.’ In reality, however, OpenAI, Inc. has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft,” the lawsuit filing said.

Musk’s lawyers said in the lawsuit that OpenAI’s focus on maximizing profits for Microsoft breaks that agreement.

“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,” the filing said.

OpenAI and Microsoft were not immediately available for comment.

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, attends the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 18, 2024.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

Musk’s lawyers said the suit was submitted “to compel OpenAI to adhere to the Founding Agreement and return to its mission to develop AGI for the benefit of humanity, not to personally benefit the individual Defendants and the largest technology company in the world.”

Microsoft, which is facing scrutiny from EU antitrust regulators over its reported $13 billion investment in OpenAI, recently announced a new partnership with French start-up Mistral AI.

The U.S. tech giant said on Monday that it was investing in the company, which is regarded as Europe’s answer to OpenAI, to help it unlock “new commercial opportunities” and expand to global markets.

Musk vs. Altman

The legal action pits two of the world’s most prominent tech leaders against each other at a time of extraordinary hype over the future of AI.

Since debuting in November 2022, OpenAI’s chatbot, ChatGPT, has taken the world by storm. The AI tool quickly became the fastest-growing consumer application in history and kick-started the launch of rival chatbots from companies such as Google parent Alphabet and Microsoft.

Elon Musk, owner of Tesla and the X (formerly Twitter) platform, attends a symposium on fighting antisemitism titled ‘Never Again : Lip Service or Deep Conversation’ in Krakow, Poland on January 22nd, 2024.

Beata Zawrzel | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Both Musk and Altman have been making headlines. Musk, considered the world’s richest person, runs electrical vehicle maker Tesla, rocket and satellite maker SpaceX, and bought X for $44 billion in October 2022. He recently reported the advances of the brain chip technology implants produced by his startup Neuralink.

Altman has meanwhile had a rocky relationship with OpenAI. He was suddenly fired from the company in November of last year, in a move that sent shock waves across the tech industry. The American entrepreneur — one of the leading figures in the AI boom — returned to the firm a few days later.

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