Piracy is an act of robbery and/or criminal violence at sea. People who engage in these acts are called pirates.
The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator (e.g. one passenger stealing from others on the same vessel). The term has been used to refer to raids across land borders by non-state agents.
Piracy is the name of an offence under customary international law and also the name of a number of offences under the municipal law of a number of States.
Piracy should be distinguished from privateering, which was authorized by their national authorities and therefore a legitimate form of war-like activity by non-state actors. This form of commerce raiding was outlawed by the Peace of Westphalia (1648) for signatories to those treaties.
Historically, offenders have usually been apprehended by military personnel and tried by military tribunals.
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