In its strictest sense, a term applied to civillians contracted by their nation in times of war to raid enemy shipping. Although this official sanction is meant, among other things, to confer upon privateers some of the rights of combatants in the event of capture, historically they have often been treated as common pirates―not without reason, as many have turned to raiding indiscriminately, sometimes even against their own government. For a classic example, see Zachary Banfeld.
Also used as a generic term for freelance spacers, who may not be employed by a sovereign government and may work for private organizations or individuals. For an example of this form of privateer, see Grayson Burrows.