"Free" Bitstream font?

So I’m looking for a specific font that has been used in some documents here. It’s a True Type font, developed by the Bitstream company 20 or 30 years ago, and we seem to have copies on our computers for some reason.

But when I look for the specific font, I get a mixture of companies selling derived fonts, and free download sites giving away (one specific font from the font family). Even MyFonts, which is the successor to Bitstream, is selling an OTF rather than the 1993 TTF.

The font companies are very actively taking down pirated fonts, so either the free font is (a) only /called/ a _BT.ttf font, or (b) some of the Bitstream fonts were released for free use. Which is it?

Did Bitstream release a whole bunch of ‘free’ fonts?

PS: for added points what are those numbers in the Bitstream font names like Humanst521 ?

Bitstream does have a pretty big number of free fonts, but I suspect that’s not what you are running into. Old fonts usually don’t get turned free.

However, the copyright for fonts is really shaky. To be specific, you can copyright the software (the font file) used to make the typeface, but you cannot copyright the typeface itself. Sure, merely changing the filetype doesn’t do anything, but if you make an identical or nearly identical font from scratch, there’s nothing they can do.

So, yeah, you are probably encountering a free clone of that one part of the font family. It’s easier just to flat out call it the Bitstream font than to make programs use one font when they are looking for another. So the filename is often is often the same.

That said, Bitstream really doesn’t get to complain about this, as that’s exactly how they ran their business. Their proprietary fonts are usually remade versions of other typefaces, sold for cheaper than their competitor who actually created it. Or digital versions of fonts that didn’t have digital versions.