Contemporary piracy is a complex and intricate problem. This article discusses different sources of complexity of the problem and suggests paying attention to ontological complexity. To unravel ontological complexity one has to ask the very fundamental question: Why is piracy actually considered to be problematic? Addressing this question leads to a set of different paradigms of piracy which underpin counter-piracy policy. Each of these paradigms works with different presumptions, foregrounds different dimensions and suggests other types of measures. Five paradigms of counter-piracy are outlined: Firstly, a security paradigm, which stresses that piracy is a threat; secondly, a legal paradigm, within which piracy is a crime; thirdly, an economic paradigm within which piracy is a business model; fourthly, a development paradigm that interprets piracy as a problem of structural root causes; and fifthly a humanitarian paradigm in which piracy is the source of suffering for individuals. These paradigms produce a range of tensions between each other. The article concludes in stressing the importance of paying attention to this complexity to increase reflexivity in drafting counter-piracy policies.