Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Pirate Definition:

A person who engages in piracy.

Related Terms: Piracy (Maritime Law), Piracy (Intellectual Property), Piracy Jure Gentium

Cicero stated that pirates are:

"... the common enemy of all and the law of nations gives to everyone the right to pursue and exterminate them without any previous declaration of war but it is not allowed to kill them without trial except in battle."1

skull & cross-bonesIn the 9th edition of his maritime law book, Molloy defines a pirate as:

"[A] sea thief or hostis humani generis who to enrich himself either by surprise or open face sets upon merchants or other traders by sea."

In his 1906 treatise Digest of International Law, Moore defines a pirate as:

"... one who without lawful authority from any state, attacks a ship with intention to appropriate what belongs to it. The pirate is a sea brigand. He has no right to any flag and is justiciable by all."

Under the law of nations, including UNCLOS, actual robbery is not necessary for one to be found to have acted as a pirate. Further, modern definitions of piracy have extended the offence to include such similar acts as may utilize aircraft.

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