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."
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.