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Elon Musk sues OpenAI and its CEO for breach of contract

By Stew Davidson
March 2, 2024

Elon Musk has initiated a lawsuit against OpenAI and company CEO Sam Altman, claiming they have diverged from their foundational commitment to bettering humanity.

In a significant legal move, Musk, one of the co-founders of OpenAI, has filed a lawsuit against the organization and its CEO. The accusation centers around a breach of contract, alleging that OpenAI has strayed from its initial promise to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI) with the intent to benefit humanity as a whole, as The Hill reported.

The heart of the dispute: Mission and partnership concerns

Musk's legal action highlights a fundamental shift in OpenAI's direction, particularly critiquing its close relationship with Microsoft.

He argues that this partnership has essentially turned OpenAI into a closed-source entity, primarily serving Microsoft's commercial interests rather than the broader goal of human welfare.

According to the lawsuit, the transformation of OpenAI into a "closed-source de facto subsidiary of Microsoft" is a direct violation of the original ethos and agreements made at the company's inception.

Musk contends that this shift is not only detrimental to the open-source community but also to the broader mission of AGI development for the public good.

GPT-4 and the pivot away from open-source ideals

The lawsuit particularly focuses on the release of GPT-4, OpenAI's advanced model, which marked a significant departure from the company's previous approach to transparency and open-source practices.

Unlike earlier versions, the inner workings of GPT-4 were not made publicly available, a decision Musk attributes to commercial motives rather than altruistic ones.

Musk further argues that GPT-4, which he considers an early form of AGI, falls outside the scope of Microsoft's licensing agreement with OpenAI.

This agreement was supposedly limited to pre-AGI technologies, indicating a potential overreach in the application of this partnership.

Boardroom battles and governance changes

The lawsuit sheds light on dramatic changes within OpenAI's board, particularly noting the brief ousting of Altman as CEO.

Musk alleges that Altman and another co-founder, Greg Brockman, manipulated the situation to their advantage, using Microsoft's influence to reshape the board in a way that aligned with their interests and Microsoft's.

Following Altman's reinstatement as CEO, a new board was established, which Musk claims was selected by Altman and approved by Microsoft, further entrenching the tech giant's influence over OpenAI.

The broader implications of the lawsuit

This legal battle raises significant questions about the future direction of AI development and the role of major tech companies in shaping this trajectory.

Musk's lawsuit not only challenges the operational decisions of OpenAI but also ignites a debate on the ethical responsibilities of AI developers and the importance of maintaining open-source principles in the face of commercial pressures.

As the lawsuit progresses, the AI community and the public at large will be watching closely to see how these tensions are resolved and what this means for the future of artificial general intelligence.

The outcome could have far-reaching implications for the way AI technologies are developed, shared, and governed in the years to come.


  • Elon Musk has sued OpenAI and Sam Altman for breaching their original mission aimed at benefiting humanity.
  • The lawsuit criticizes OpenAI's partnership with Microsoft, claiming it has turned the organization into a closed-source entity focused on profit.
  • Concerns are raised about the lack of transparency with the GPT-4 model and its alignment with Microsoft's commercial interests.
  • Dramatic changes in OpenAI's board and governance are highlighted, with accusations of undue influence from Microsoft.
  • The lawsuit underscores the tension between commercial interests and the ethical development of AI technologies for the public good.