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March 3, 2024

Elon Musk Sues OpenAI: A Timeline of Friction Between the Tesla CEO and the AI Startup

Elon Musk has taken legal action against OpenAI, the AI research company he helped found, citing a departure from its original nonprofit mission. The lawsuit marks the culmination of years of tension between Musk and the AI startup, revealing a series of events that led to this contentious legal battle.

Musk’s Growing Dissatisfaction

Elon Musk’s dissatisfaction with OpenAI’s trajectory has been brewing for years. In 2018, Musk stepped down from OpenAI’s board, citing potential conflicts of interest with his role at Tesla. However, reports suggest that Musk’s departure was driven by frustration with OpenAI’s lagging progress compared to rival AI labs.

Failed Attempts at Intervention

Musk reportedly proposed taking control of OpenAI to steer its direction, but this proposition was rebuffed by CEO Sam Altman and other founders. Following this rejection, Musk ceased further funding to OpenAI, reneging on a pledge to donate approximately $1 billion over time. Without Musk’s promised resources, OpenAI was forced to seek outside investment and transitioned to a for-profit model, a move that further alienated Musk.

Public Criticism and Twitter Disputes

In December 2022, Musk revoked OpenAI’s access to Twitter data, a significant resource for the AI research firm. He also publicly criticized OpenAI’s shift from its original open-source nonprofit mission to a closed-source, for-profit entity controlled by Microsoft, one of its major backers. Musk questioned the legality of this transformation, highlighting his confusion over how a nonprofit he supported financially could evolve into a highly valued for-profit company.

The Lawsuit and Allegations

Musk’s lawsuit against OpenAI and CEO Sam Altman alleges a breach of the company’s original nonprofit charter, which aimed to develop AI for the betterment of humanity. The lawsuit seeks the return of Musk’s donations, indicating a fundamental disagreement over the direction and principles of the AI startup.


The legal battle between Elon Musk and OpenAI underscores the complexities of navigating the intersection of technology, ethics, and profit motives. Musk’s lawsuit reflects his deep-seated concerns about the deviation from OpenAI’s original mission and the broader implications of AI development. As the case unfolds, it will likely shed light on the challenges and responsibilities associated with harnessing artificial intelligence for societal benefit.

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy

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