Several authors, including an economics professor, are pretty sure they did. Even the snooty-booty New Yorker has noticed, although New York is far more famous for “corporate pirates” who would have been useful to their high-seas counterparts only as ballast or sharkbait. (BTW, many thanks to Keith Nagel, author of highly useful patent-perusal program IPDiscover, for bringing this article to my attention).
These authors are probably right. Piracy is largely an organized crime; pirate chieftains like Blackbeard, Jean Lafitte, Grace O’Malley, and Madame Chiang commanded sizable fleets. Organizations have to have rules if they want to grow and achieve.
Don’t get me wrong; pirates were (and still are) “not very nice persons at all.” They stole ships and their cargo for personal gain, took prisoners for ransom or slave-price (or addition to the crew if sufficiently useful), and killed anyone who got in their way. Not like, for instance, national navies and letters of marque, which confiscated suspected enemy ships and their cargo as prizes shared by the crew, took prisoners for exchange or impressment into service, killed anyone who got in their way, and were sanctioned by governments and mostly financed by taxes.
My point -
and I do have one – is that 17th- 18th-century pirate codes reveal a professional culture exhibiting much more democracy, safeguards for dispute resolution, and merit incentives at all levels than could be found in most governments of their age, and far more than can be found in most legitimate business ventures of our own time. They could certainly be a model for contractual relationships among salvagers and others who, albeit within the local law, profit from things that they find (rather than make or buy).