Elon Musk sues Sam Altman and OpenAI for betraying original agreement

Elon Musk and Sam Altman
  • Tesla CEO Files Lawsuit Against OpenAI and Its Co-Founders, Including CEO Sam Altman
  • He alleges that they would have betrayed the agreement to create an organization for the benefit of humanity
  • Musk backed the creation of OpenAI in 2015, but later walked away 

Elon Musk has filed legal action against OpenAI and its CEO Sam Altman, among others, alleging that the creators of ChatGPT have breached the company’s founding agreement.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in a San Francisco court and cited by several media outlets, alleges that Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman approached Musk asking for support in creating a company focused on the development of artificial intelligence (AI), with the original promise that it would be a non-profit organization to benefit humanity.

However, he alleges that the company has now distanced itself from its founding mission by adopting a focus on generating monetary income and by signing a multi-million dollar alliance with the technology giant Microsoft.

OpenAI, Inc. has been transformed into a de facto closed-source subsidiary of the world’s largest technology company: Microsoft,” alleges the lawsuit, which also includes affiliated entities of the company behind ChatGPT.

The billionaire entrepreneur co-founded OpenAI in 2015 but resigned from its board of directors in 2018. Musk also runs electric car maker Tesla, rocket company SpaceX and owns Twitter, which he bought in 2022 for $44 billion and later renamed X.. He also has his own AI company called X.AI.

According to the legal complaint, Musk donated more than $44 million to the nonprofit between 2016 and September 2020, being OpenAI ‘s largest contributor during the early years, details Tech Crunch coverage.

Altman betrayed founding agreement, says Musk 

The lawsuit focuses on GPT-4, the company’s most advanced generative AI model, alleging that OpenAI kept its design “ completely secret ” and has granted improper licenses. The tycoon also appeared to identify the model as an advance of AGI, an AI whose intelligence is on par, if not superior, to that of humans.

“ Under his new board of directors, he is not only developing but refining an AGI to maximize Microsoft’s profits, rather than for the benefit of humanity,” Musk’s lawyers added.

The legal document also mentions the change of the company’s board of directors. Late last year, the previous board fired Altman,  citing his alleged dishonesty and lack of “ confidence in his ability to continue to lead.” Altman returned to his role as CEO a week later, after employees and Microsoft backed him. OpenAI established a new board of directors; only one member of the previous board remained.

Musk said in the lawsuit that “ the new board was made up of members with more experience in companies or policies focused on profits than on AI ethics and governance.”

The Lord. Altman hand-selected a new board that lacks similar technical expertise or any substantial experience in AI governance, which the previous board had by design,” he argued.

Yesterday we reported that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would be investigating Altman for his sudden, but momentary, departure in December of last year.

OpenAI has become one of the most prominent companies since its flagship product, ChatGPT, went viral last year. The rise of the chatbot motivated a de facto competition between Google, Apple and other technology giants. To advance its AI products, it has had the support of Microsoft, which has invested around 13 billion dollars.

Musk previously said he was offered a stake in the for-profit arm of OpenAI, but declined to accept it over ethical concerns, according to coverage.