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New Musk Lawsuit Provides Evidence that OpenAI Has Abandoned its Nonprofit Mission

California Attorney General Encouraged To Investigate

Washington, D.C. — Citing evidence from the recent Elon Musk lawsuit against OpenAI and other developments, Public Citizen again urged California Attorney General Rob Bonta to investigate OpenAI’s nonprofit status in a letter today. Public Citizen first encouraged the attorney general review OpenAI’s status as a nonprofit earlier this year.

The latest Public Citizen letter highlights key claims from the Musk lawsuit supporting the theory that OpenAI has abandoned its nonprofit purpose. The Musk lawsuit emphasizes, for example, that OpenAI departed from its prior practice of detailing the training and other internal details of its models, allegedly for the purpose of advancing its for-profit considerations.  

“Elon Musk’s lawsuit shines a light on the ways in which OpenAI appears to have abandoned its nonprofit mission, elevating profit seeking over ensuring AI safety and developing AI technologies for the benefit of humanity,” said Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. “Maybe through payment to a charitable foundation, OpenAI can finally deliver (at least in part) on its original promise. Because the idea that animated the founding of OpenAI — that we can’t simply rely on for-profit corporations to develop and deploy AI responsibly — is more true than ever.“ 

The Public Citizen letter also points to other profit-seeking actions of the OpenAI network of enterprises, including the recent investment in and collaboration with the robotics company, Figure. The investment was funneled through OpenAI Startup Fund, which Axios reports is owned by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, not one of the OpenAI enterprises. “It is very hard to square this set of facts with the idea that the nonprofit OpenAI remains committed to its mission,” the letter states. 

If OpenAI, Inc. is no longer serving its public, nonprofit purpose, then under California law it should be dissolved, with the value of its assets transferred to another charitable enterprise, such as one or more foundations devoted to artificial intelligence ethics and safety. Those assets should likely be valued in billions of dollars, Public Citizen has contended.