OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk is suing the company, his fellow co-founders, related companies and unidentified others. He argued that by pursuing profits, they were violating OpenAI’s nonprofit status and its founding contractual agreements to develop AI “for the benefit of humanity.”

The suit claims that OpenAI has become a “de facto closed-source subsidiary” of Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion and owns a 49 percent stake. Microsoft uses OpenAI technology to power generative AI tools like Copilot.

According to the filing, OpenAI’s current board is said to be developing and improving artificial general intelligence (AGI) “to maximize profits for Microsoft, not for the benefit of humanity.” It was a gross betrayal of the Constituent Agreement.

The suit defines AGI as “a machine with intelligence for a wide variety of human-like tasks.” Musk claims in the lawsuit that GPT-4, which is said to be “better at reasoning than ordinary humans,” is equivalent to AGI and is “a de facto algorithm owned by Microsoft.”

Musk has long expressed concern about AGI. He argued that the theoretical technology posed a “serious threat to humanity,” especially “in the hands of a closed, for-profit company like Google.”

According to the filing, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and fellow co-founder Greg Brockman convinced Musk to help them launch the nonprofit and fund its early operations in an effort to counter Google’s advances in the AGI space with DeepMind. He noted that their original agreement required OpenAI’s technology to be “freely available” to the public. Musk claims to have donated $44 million to the nonprofit between 2016 and 2020 (he stepped down as an OpenAI board member in 2018). Like TechCrunch reports, Musk previously said he was offered a stake in OpenAI’s for-profit subsidiary but turned it down because of a “position of principle.”

Muskl, of course, has some skin in the game. Since the public debut of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022, there has been a battle between the tech giants to offer the best generative AI tools. Musk joined this rat race when his AI company, xAI, launched ChatGPT rival Grok for Premium+ subscribers to his X social network last year.

When Altman quickly returned to power after OpenAI’s board shockingly fired him in November, he is said to have appointed a new group of directors who are less technically oriented and more focused on business. Microsoft was appointed as a non-voting observer. “The new board consisted of members with more experience in profit-driven businesses or politics than in AI ethics and governance,” the lawsuit alleges.

The suit accuses the defendants of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and unfair business practices. Musk is seeking a lawsuit and a ruling that forces OpenAI to stick to its original nonprofit mission. He also wants to be barred from monetizing technologies he developed as a non-profit for the benefit of OpenAI management, as well as Microsoft and other partners.

Competition regulators in the US, UK and European Union are said to be investigating OpenAI’s partnership with Microsoft. It was reported this week that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether OpenAI misled investors. Several news organizations also sued OpenAI and Microsoft, alleging that ChatGPT repurposed their work “verbatim or nearly verbatim” without attribution, infringing their copyrights in the process.

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