Elon Musk, who helped to co-found OpenAI nine years ago, is now suing the company and its CEO Sam Altman, arguing that it has abandoned its professed mission to develop AI "for the benefit of humanity broadly."

A long-simmering feud between Elon Musk and Sam Altman has come to a head, and Friday morning the New York Times and others brought news of a lawsuit that Musk has filed, naming Altman, OpenAI, and the company's president Greg Brockman as defendants. The suit claims breach of contract as well as breach of fiduciary duty, based on the company's charter mission and its recent partnership with Microsoft.

"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 suit reads.

The suit further pulls text from the originally non-profit company's certificate of incorporation, which states that OpenAI's "resulting technology will benefit the public and the corporation will seek to open source technology for the public benefit when applicable," and "The corporation is not organized for the private gain of any person."

Legal experts already say that Musk may make a good point, but there are a few issues at play here. First, Musk may not have standing to bring this case, given that he no longer serves on the company's board. Second, Musk has his own financial interest to protect in his more recently launched xAI, which is getting set to unveil its own (non-"woke") chatbot Grok in the near future.

To the question of standing, Brian Quinn, a law professor at Boston College, tells the Times, "If he were a member of the board of directors, I would say, ‘Ooh, strong case.’... But he doesn’t have standing. He doesn’t have a case."

"The courts of California must decide what OpenAI must do after straying from its original mission," says Gary Marcus, an AI entrepreneur, speaking to the Times. "The court of public opinion must decide what it thinks of Musk, who has a fair point about OpenAI but has his own commercial A.I. interests and choices."

Musk's lawsuit comes three and a half months after the board of OpenAI fired Altman, only to reinstate him days later amid an employee revolt and threats by Microsoft to essentially poach the entire staff.

Then, two weeks later, Musk was at the Times' DealBook Summit, and in the same interview where he told X advertisers they could go fuck themselves, he said, "I have mixed feelings about Sam. The ring of power can corrupt, and he has the ring of power."

Musk also intimated that board members may have discovered something "dangerous" about their AI that prompted them to take such action against Altman, and that he wanted to know what happened, exactly.

That kind of information might come out if this lawsuit moves ahead to a jury trial — assuming it is not dismissed on lack of standing.

The suit is seeking to compel OpenAI to make its models public, and to cease all for-profit business dealings with Microsoft. It also seeks to compel the company, Altman, and Brockman to repay any money they've been paid through the Microsoft deal.

Previously: Sam Altman Back at OpenAI as CEO, Most of Board Gets Replaced

Top image:Top image: NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 29: Elon Musk wears a necklace in honor of Israeli hostages onstage during The New York Times Dealbook Summit 2023 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 29, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for The New York Times)