Legal Dictionary

beneficial owner

Legal Definition of beneficial owner

Related terms

See also

Definition of beneficial owner


beneficial owner (plural beneficial owners)

  1. The person who takes all or most of the returns of a property's equity or monetary gains.

Further reading

Beneficial owner is a legal term where specific property rights ("use and title") in equity belong to a person even though legal title of the property belongs to another person. Black's Law Dictionary (2nd Pocket ed. 2001 pg. 508). This often relates where the legal title owner has implied trustee duties to the beneficial owner.

Under United States copyright law, an author may transfer some rights to the copyright owner (often an employer) while retaining a future "reversionary interest," such as that of copyright renewal. For example, "[t]he legal or beneficial owner of an exclusive right under a copyright . . . to institute an action for any infringement of that particular right committed while he or she is the owner of it." 17 U.S.C. ยง 501(b)

A common example of a beneficial owner is the real owner of funds held by a nominee bank or for stocks held in the name of a brokerage firm.

Greenpeace Airplot

In January 2009, Greenpeace and three celebrities bought a plot of land in the proposed area for the expansion of Heathrow Airport. They then signed up thousands of people as beneficial owners in order to create as difficult as possible legal obstacle to building the third runway. As of April 25, 2010, Greenpeace has signed up just over 80,000 people from all over the world as beneficial owners and is aiming to get 100,000 beneficial owners.


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