chapter  1
50 Pages

Piracy Today

This definition is appropriate for describing the work of the IMB, and for its statistical purposes, but it is wider than most or all of the legal definitions of piracy.

1.016 The central idea behind piracy, for any definition, is robbery at sea, and piracy has always involved the forcible seizure of property.18 Moreover, pirates are criminals, not idealists. Certainly, they are not acting on behalf of a state authority, it becoming necessary from earliest times to distinguish between piracy and warfare.19 For example, for hundreds of years at least, thefts of ships and cargoes by private individuals have not transferred property, whereas Prize acquisitions in wartime have. For purely commercial reasons, it is necessary to settle disputes over title. Moreover, pirates are treated as criminals, and not accorded the privileges of prisoners of war. It is therefore necessary to distinguish between private and statebased motives, piracy traditionally falling into the former category. It is not a brightline distinction, because wars are not always formally declared, and it is not always clear whether a group of people in a particular area is entitled to be considered a state.