Elon Musk has questioned the legality of OpenAI potentially becoming a for-profit business, after investing around $50 million into the venture. During a shareholder meeting on May 16, Musk remarked that he had initially intended OpenAI to be an open-source alternative to DeepMind after Google purchased the company in 2014. He likened OpenAI’s non-profit to for-profit transition to a “save the Amazon” organization becoming a “lumber company” that sold trees from the rainforest. Musk asked whether this was legal, adding “shouldn’t that be the default?”
OpenAI began as a non-profit so that it could focus on advancing “digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole”. However, in 2019, OpenAI announced the launch of OpenAI LP, a “capped-profit” company which is a hybrid of for-profit and non-profit. OpenAI claims this has allowed the company to attract more capital and scale faster, and has enabled it to create a new cryptocurrency called Worldcoin, as well as receive a multibillion-dollar investment from Microsoft.
OpenAI may again be releasing an open-source AI model, which it hasn’t done since turning for-profit. However, the paid version for users costs $20 per month, suggesting that the open-source version may not be as competitive. Despite its recent moves toward becoming a for-profit business, OpenAI continues to state that it is still primarily focused on advancing digital intelligence for the betterment of humanity.