The plaintiff was hired to design and produce chromolithographs to produce posters used as advertisements for a circus. The designs depicted acts that spectators could expect to see at the circus, including ballet and bicycle performances. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants copied the chromolithographs without permission, and thus, the plaintiff brought a copyright infringement suit to recover damages. The circuit court found for the defendant, holding that the chromolithographs were not protectable works under copyright law. The court of appeals upheld the decision, and the plaintiff appealed to the United States Supreme Court.