Actually, there is an old case in US copyright law that holds unequivocally that a phone book isn't covered by copyright. For it to be covered, either the individual entries would have to be creative or they would have to be arranged in some creative order. The court found that alphabetical order was not sufficiently creative.
This was reaffirmed in the seminal (for other reasons) Phonedisc USA case, in which a person bought a CD of phone directories and published them on the web.
For a database to be covered by copyright, it would have to meet the same tests. Note that the number of databases covered by copyright is probably far less than the number whose authors claim they are covered by copyright, so we really don't know how many are.
But the OP talked about German, not US copyright law. It's probably different.
In any practical copyright law, typing from sight is copying. There would be little point to copyright if it weren't. So it's hard to see just what the legal value of having laborers type in German phonebooks (vs what alternative?) was.
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