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Elon Musk sues OpenAI, Sam Altman over breaching initial agreement to pursue profits

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-03-02 03:17

OpenAI logo is seen in this illustration taken on Feb 3, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

SAN FRANCISCO -- Elon Musk has sued OpenAI and its co-founders Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, alleging the company has broken its initial agreement by pursuing profits instead of the nonprofit's founding mission to develop AI that benefits humanity.

In the lawsuit filed in a court in US San Francisco late Thursday, Musk, a co-founder and early supporter of OpenAI, claimed that Altman and Brockman convinced him to help found and finance the startup in 2015 with promises it would be a nonprofit. The founding agreement required OpenAI to make its technology "freely available" to the public, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also alleges close alignment between Microsoft and OpenAI, saying that OpenAI has transferred to a for-profit model focused on commercializing its AGI research after partnering with Microsoft that has invested about 13 billion US dollars into the startup.

"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," the lawsuit noted, adding that "this was a stark betrayal of the Founding Agreement."

Musk also alleges OpenAI and Microsoft have improperly licensed GPT-4 despite agreeing that OpenAI's AGI capabilities would remain dedicated to humanity.

Through the lawsuit, Musk is seeking to force OpenAI to uphold its original mission and block it from monetizing technologies developed under its nonprofit for the benefit.

Musk asks for accounting and return of donations meant to fund its public-minded research if they are now operating for private gain.

Musk left OpenAI's board in 2018. According to the legal complaint, he donated over 44 million dollars to the nonprofit between 2016 to September 2020. For the first several years, he was the largest contributor to the startup. In late 2022, OpenAI's launch of ChatGPT ignited an AI arms race.

"I like the dude. I think he's totally wrong about this stuff," Altman addressed Musk's recurring doubts at a conference last year. "He can sort of say whatever he wants but I'm like proud of what we're doing and I think we're going to make a positive contribution to the world and I try to stay above all that."

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